Alpha Mom » Kelcey Kintner http://alphamom.com parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:27:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 “Holiday Hot Toys:” Hit and Misses of 2014 http://alphamom.com/family-fun/holidays/holiday-hot-toy-hit-and-misses-2014/ http://alphamom.com/family-fun/holidays/holiday-hot-toy-hit-and-misses-2014/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:34:37 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35313

The official start of the 2014 Holiday shopping season is just days away and the big toy retailers like Target, Walmart, Kmart and Toys ‘R Us have once again each announced their Hot Toys lists. Of course these toys look shiny, fun and awesome online and in the stores but what about once your kid is actually playing with them?

Alpha Mom picked 12 toys from these retailer’s “Hot Holiday Toys” lists to put to the test. There were some big hits (heard of Elsa anyone?) but some of them definitely did not hold up to expectations. Before you spend big money, find out which toys are our favorites and which ones are misses and should be skipped or avoided altogether.

Also, we found that the prices for these “Hot Toys” can vary greatly from retailer to retailer. We gave you a general price range but check different retailers’ websites before purchasing.

Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll (Buy It)

Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll:  Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit, and we’re not surprised it’s on the Hot Toy Lists of many of the retailers this holiday season.We already know that Elsa gets all the glory and poor Anna always seems to be second fiddle. Hopefully Anna can work it out in therapy some day. This singing Elsa doll (My First Disney Princess) ($30 – $47 depending on where you buy it) is a HUGE favorite in my house. Especially by my 4 year old daughter.

If you’ve got an Elsa lover at home, this is a fabulous holiday gift. Your child can touch this doll’s snowflake necklace and hear Elsa to talk to her Frozen friends as her dress lights up. The dolls sings, “Let it Go” (just a part of the song) and says 15 phrases from the movie. You can set the doll to talk/sing in English or Spanish.

This doll comes with an Olaf sidekick and three AAA batteries.

There are a couple problems with the doll. It has no off button and it has no volume control. The shoes also fall off very easily. But if you have a kid that’s mad about Elsa, buy this and try to just let it go. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

Final Word on Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll: “Frozen” mania continues and this Elsa doll is a nice addition. I have already purchased one of these for a birthday party this weekend. Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit, and we’re not surprised it’s on the Hot Toy Lists of many of the retailers this holiday season. Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll can be purchased via our affiliate Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Zoomer Dino (Buy It)

Zoomer Dino Review: one of our favorite toys of the Holiday 2014Remember that electronic dog Zoomer from last year’s Holiday Hot Toys Lists? Well, he’s back in dinosaur form this year (about $80)! The Zoomer Dino is on many retailers’ Holiday Hot Toy Lists this year (Walmart, Target, Kmart and Toys R Us.)  Zoomer Dino wanders freely around your home and really has good balance for an electronic toy. This is an interactive toy that can detect when your child is playing with it. It will react when being pet and will get angry if you pull its tail!  Like a real dinosaur, it will spin around, chomp and roar. You can use different hand motions to make it do things like flip its tail and sit.

You can also control Zoomer Dino’s movements with a remote control. And its eyes are super freaky. The eyes change color with its mood, indicating whether it’s happy or sad.

This prehistoric pet is for children ages 5 and up (although my 4 year old son enjoyed playing with it). The toys requires three AAA batteries for the remote control (not included) and it charges with a USB cable (included).  It takes about an hour to charge and the charge lasts 20 to 30 minutes. (Before recharging – you have to let the battery cool down for 10 to 15 minutes).

Final Word on Zoomer Dino: This toy, an Alpha Mom favorite and Holiday Hot Toy Hot, is a lot like the Zoomer dog but kind of cooler because the dinosaur can be so ferocious. If you have a kid who loves dinosaurs, this is fun, interactive holiday gift. Just keep that USB cable handy because you will be doing a lot of recharging.  Last year, Zoomer (the dog version) sold out incredibly quickly so if this of interest, act fast and get your Zoomer Dino ASAP. Aside from Amazon, also look for it on Walmart and Target.

Let’s Imagine Elmo by Sesame Street (Buy It, with reservations)

Let's Imagine Elmo Toy Review: great toy for the holidays if you have a HUGE Elmo fan on your hands.  Otherwise we have reservations.Sesame Street Let’s Imagine Elmo (about $30) has three different hats (a cowboy, a sea captain and a prince) and plays different games depending on which hat he is wearing. For example, when he is Cowboy Elmo, he counts up to 20 with your child and then sings a song. When he wears the sea captain’s hat, Elmo starts up a sounds-of-the-sea identification game. When he’s a prince, Elmo plays, “Prince Elmo Says.”

When Elmo isn’t wearing a hat, he still interacts with your child by getting bounced, tickled, and having his nose squeezed! The whole thing is ridiculously cute but didn’t really hold my children’s interest for long. I found the same issue with the Big Hugs Elmo which was on many retailers’ hot toy lists for the holidays last year. All my kids (age 18 months to 10 years old) were anxious to play with the Let’s Imagine Elmo but after checking out the different hats were done.

Also young kids (age 4 and under) will have trouble getting the hats on and off so they will need assistance from an adult. Four AA batteries included.

Final Word on Let’s Imagine Elmo toy: This is a really cute gift for a preschooler who LOVES Elmo. But unless the kid is obsessed with Elmo, skip this toy because your child will lose interest fast.

Simon Swipe Game (Buy It)

Simon Swipe Game Review: great family toy gift for the Holidays.  We tested it and approve.I know a lot of people grew up playing Simon (about $15) and I remember it but didn’t play it much. I think I was too busy agonizing over that infuriating Rubik’s Cube. But I’m always a fan of a retro game so I was excited to try out Simon Swipe with my kids (It’s on the Hot Toy List of Target and Kmart this year).

Simon Swipe has four games including Classic Simon. If you’re not familiar with the game – you basically need to repeat the pattern of lights which gets longer and more challenging as you get each pattern right. In the classic game, you just tap. But in the other games now available, you tap, swipe and do u-turns. Yup, it gets that crazy.

They really should put some basic directions on the bottom of this game because it would be nice to be able to easily refer to it. We all got a little confused about how to choose and restart different games on Simon Swipe and constantly needed to refer to the directions which at some point I know will get lost.

One feature of Simon Swipe that I love is that you can turn down the volume or even turn it off completely which makes it a great car game. The game is for ages 8 and up, but younger kids can play the Classic Simon module. Three AA batteries included.

Final Word on Simon Swipe: My older kids (ages 7 and 10) played the Classic Simon module because the other games got too confusing and challenging. I like that Simon Swipe is great for memory skills and it’s easy to bring on a road trip. With the retro vibe and affordable price, it’s definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit.

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch (Buy It)

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch Review: great toy for the Holidays. We tested it and it gets our approval.The VTech Kidzoom Smartwatch (about $50) is a big touch screen wristwatch with a camera, voice recorder, games and other creative effects. Hey, it even tells time! This is really a way to keep younger kids (age 3 to 7) off your cellphone. (It’s on Walmart’s and Kmart’s Hot Toy Lists this year).

My children (age 4 to 10) all had fun experimenting with this smartwatch and had no problem figuring it out. They were able to take pictures and videos. You can pick different frames for the photos, save them and transfer them to a computer if you want.

The digital and analog watch clock displays comes with 50 clock face designs and there is also a stopwatch/timer. The voice recorder has funny voice-changing effects which my kids loved! There are four learning games: Super Detective, Rotating Puzzle, Finger Dance, and Time Master and you can download more by registering online and connecting to the Vtech Learning Lodge.

You don’t have to worry about batteries. You just plug the Vtech Smartwatch in using a USB cable. It takes about 3 hours to charge and the battery will last 2 to 3 days under typical usage. Although be warned – taking photos and videos are more demanding on the battery.  The watch seems pretty durable and is splash-proof. Don’t bring it in the bath or swim with it. The user manual is comprehensive and easy to read which as a parent, I really appreciate.

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?Just so you understand the size of the watch, this is it on my 4 year old son….

I wouldn’t buy this device if your priority is giving your kid a way to tell time. Just buy a standard wristwatch. But this is a great toy to attach to a younger child’s wrist to keep them busy in the car or when you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Because you can actually attach it to your child, it’s easier to keep track of it.

Final Word on the Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch: I’m always looking for ways to decrease screen time– not increase it– but I thought this was a nice twist on technology that could be great on a car trip or when you need to keep little ones busy for awhile. The Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch is an Alpha Mom favorite!

FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet (Consider Skipping)

FurReal Friends Pup Review Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?There was mass hysteria in my house when the FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet (about $50) arrived. My five kids were very excited and immediately started fighting over who could walk it first. (This toy is on the Holiday Hot Toy Lists of Target, Walmart, Kmart, Toys ‘R Us, and Toy Insider).  This plush, electronic puppy is designed to act like a real puppy. A leash with a controller allows your child to walk her. She also wags her tail, sits and tilts her head. The dog also responds with barks when you talk to her. Four C batteries required.

The key problem with this furry pup toy is that it can only walk in a straight line so when your child wants to turn, they will either have to physically pick her up and turn her or try dragging her with the leash which just makes her fall over. So it gets a little frustrating trying to walk her. It’s also pretty slow going. You do not have a greyhound dog on your hands here.

This pup also comes with a free app. After you download the app (works with Apple and certain Android devices), face your phone/tablet toward the dog and she will interact with the activities your child plays on the app like washing and drying the pup. There are no instructions so you kind of just wing it – your kids will figure it out in no time. I wasn’t too jazzed about the app because I’m not looking for more ways to increase my kids’ screen time. I’d rather they just play with the dog and use their imaginations.

All of my kids quickly lost interest in the FurReal pup except for my 4 year old daughter. Not surprising, since she’s an animal lover and still adores the FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet that was on many retailers’ Hot Toy lists in 2013 and was a favorite of ours. Still she kept saying, “The puppy only walks in a straight line!” My 18 month old son also liked playing with it a bit because it’s interactive.

Final Word on the FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet: If this was $20 or $30 bucks, I’d absolutely recommend buying the toy pup for a young child (aged 2 – 5) who is passionate about dogs. But at $50 it seems too expensive for what you’re getting. And it also won’t stop your kids for asking for a real dog. Which is the real bummer.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair (Consider Skipping)

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?It’s not often that you see a really new idea when it comes to baby/toddler toys. But I was intrigued to check out this Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair (about $48) for kids 12 months and up because I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  It’s on the Hot Toy List this year of Toy Insider.

This seat knows when your toddler sits and stands, activating songs and phrases. Your child can press the light-up remote or flip book pages to hear numbers, shapes and more. Lift the cushion for more songs and interactive play. There are three levels of play (with different songs, phrases and sounds) depending on your child’s age. Requires three AA batteries.

I really like the idea of this toy but my 18 month old never sits down. Like ever. Unless he’s strapped into his high chair or the carseat, he is roaming around and causing trouble. He was interested in the Laugh and Learn Smart Chair when it first arrived but has mostly ignored it since then so he can focus on his never ending effort to get into the trash cans. My daughters were a bit more sedentary at age 18 months and may have played with a toy like this for longer.

Final Word on the Laugh and Learn Smart Chair: I wouldn’t be so quick to throw down $48 for this chair unless your toddler has the ability to sit down for a little bit and play with toys. If your kids is a more of a “search and destroy” toddler then this might not be the perfect fit. Available at our affiliate Amazon.

Sew Cool Sewing Machine (Consider Skipping)

Sew Cool Sewing Kit Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?The Sew Cool Sewing Machine (about $30 – $40) is a super cool concept and is on Walmart’s Holiday Hot Toy List this year. It’s a threadless machine that kids can use to create purses, pouches, characters and more out of precut shapes. There is no thread, no foot pedal or bobbins to wind. You simply place the material in the machine, press the button and follow the dotted line. There are 9 included projects. Four AA batteries required.

Unfortunately, this toy seems to be 100% targeted at girls only. A product description begins, “Girls can start sewing in a safe and creative way!” They only show a girl enjoying the product and it just comes in a deep pink and purple because you know that’s the only color girls like, right?! Ugh. My 7 year old daughter’s favorite color is blue. And haven’t these folks ever seen “Project Runway?” Don’t they know that lots of talented and creative little boys will grow up to be designers too?!

Insulting 1950’s marketing aside, my 7 and 10 year old daughters enjoyed this. Although it was a little hard to get the material in the right spot sometimes. I have no idea how the material sticks together but apparently it works like a felting machine which blends the fibers together.

BUT – by the time a kid is old enough to use the the Sew Cool Sewing Machine (6 and up), why not teach them to sew for real? There are adorable products where kids can start using a needle and thread like My First Sewing Kit by Alex’s Toys or American Girl Crafts Sew and Stuff Kit. Or craft stores and other small businesses will teach you or your child how to use a sewing machine. My 10 year old started taking sewing lessons a couple of months ago and she has already made a bag, shorts, a skirt and a top!

Final Word on the Sew Cool Sewing Machine: I think this is a fun toy for a kid who has expressed an interest in sewing and wants the feel of a real sewing machine. But I can’t overlook how it is entirely marketed to only girls and kids aren’t learning any real sewing skills. But that aside, it’s a nice break from all the screens/apps, and I’d still recommend it for the future “Project Runway” star. You can purchase the Sew Cool Sewing Machine through our affiliate Amazon.

Ultimate Amazement Park Playset (Consider Skipping)

Ultimate Amazement Park Playset Holiday Toys 2014The Ultimate Amazement Park Playset by Vtech (about $50) is on the Hot Toy lists of Target and Walmart this year.  We found that it is way bigger than you think it will be. In fact, it’s 3 feet long with ramps, loops and a spiral course (!!!). It has lots of fun sounds and melodies. But you’ll barely notice because you’ll keep saying to yourself, “Wow. This is really big.” Unless you’re living in Daddy Warbucks’ mansion, you will have a hard time figuring out where to put this thing. And because it’s so tall, it’s a bit unsteady and ours kept crashing over. So a lot of the time, it looked like this….

Fallen over holiday Toys 2014

It’s pretty easy to put together which is always a big plus when it comes to toys. You can follow the picture on the box and definitely keep the box for storage. My 4 year old son thought the playset was pretty cool but it only comes with one car, which is not enough. He used his matchbox cars on it too. Two AAA batteries included. Meant for kids 12 months to 5 years but we think it’s really for kids 3 and up. My 18 month old only knocked it over. Again and again.

Final Word on Ultimate Amazement Park Playset: Unless you have a big playroom or space for this, I would skip it. If you have space to leave it up, and your child is into cars and racetracks, it could be a lot of fun. The Ultimate Amazement Park Playset can be purchased on Amazon.

DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel and Storage Case Set by Play Doh (Consider Skipping)

DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel Review: should you gift this for the Holidays?My kids have never used any of the DohVinci products so they didn’t really know what to expect. The Play Doh DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio (about $26) is a cool toy gift for kids who love to do anything artistic and is on Toys R Us’ Hot Toy List this year.

Basically your child is squeezing out Play Doh through these Deco Pop tubes to create 3D designs. They can either follow the designs on three different art boards or create their own on two blank boards provided. Your child can add dots, zigzag lines and other details.  It’s a little harder than it looks and my 10 year old daughter was frustrated that she couldn’t make the lines exactly the way she wanted. My 4 year old had a really hard time squeezing the Play Doh out with the styler. My 7 year old could do it but had to use two hands.

The creations harden overnight and then you can keep them forever! I know. You’re welcome.

This non-toxic Play Doh contains wheat.

Final Word on DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel and Storage Case Set: This toy cannot be used simultaneously by several children because you only have one styler to put the deco pop tubes into to create your art. So if you have several children, they will need to exercise some patience before trying it out or you may need to purchase additional stylers. My kids enjoyed experimenting with this toy but I think they have more fun with construction paper, some water colors and glitter glue. The Play Doh DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio is available for sale at our affiliate Amazon.

LeapFrog LeapBand (Avoid It)

LeapFrog LeapBand Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?The LeapFrog LeapBand is considerably less money than the Vtech Smartwatch. The LeapBand only costs about $30. But despite the fact that the LeapFrog and the Vtech watches look very much the same and are targeted at the same age group (LeapBand targets age 4 – 7), it really is a different product. The LeapBand is intended to be an activity tracker for kids.

There is no touchscreen which will likely send your children into a state of panic but within minutes they will learn how to operate this LeapBand. The LeapFrog LeapBand is preloaded with 10 active play challenges and 4 cool down challenges to get kids moving like, “Pounce like a lion!” (Parents can add up to 36 more challenges for free in LeapFrog Connect.)

The idea of LeapBand is that kids run, jump and play to earn rewards and power a pet pal that lives on the band. For example, in one game, Pet Chef, your child can help a pet collect food and make healthy snacks.

Parents can set the LeapBand so that it is locked during quiet times (when your child is at school and sleeping). Parents can also check their kid’s activity by connecting the LeapBand to their computer and logging onto LeapFrog Connect. You charge the phone by plugging it in to the computer using a USB cable. The battery will last 3 to 4 days depending on usage.

I am not a big fan of this watch – despite the fact that I love the LeapFrog brand and really adored the LeapPad Ultra reviewed last year on Alpha Mom.  The watch is huge and the band is very stiff.

Is a kid really going to wear this all day? No. And more importantly, why would you want them to? I let my 4 year old twins, my 7 year old and my 10 year old try the LeapBand (even though the 10 year old is above the targeted age group) and I didn’t see a lot of activity. What I saw was a lot of kids staring at screens. And yes, once in a while, they were jumping and doing short activities. But mostly they were playing these pet pal games while lounging on the couch.

You want your kid to be more active? Save yourself $30 bucks and send them outside to play tag, a game of soccer or go on a bike ride. Or if you’re stuck inside, how about an active game on the Wii or a trip to your local Y.

Final Word on the LeapFrog LeapBand: I think the idea of an activity tracker for kids is brilliant but this just didn’t quite get there.

Paw Patrol Look-out Playset (Avoid It)

Paw Patrol Holiay Toys 2014

I love the idea of this Look-out Playset (for about $30) because so many kids enjoy the show “Paw Patrol” on Nickelodeon.  (This is found on the Hot Toy lists of Target, Kmart and Toys R Us). And my 4 year old twins (boy and girl) were really excited to play with it. But it’s kind of a piece of junk. The main problem with the toy is that the slide breaks apart again and again. I finally resorted to using duct tape to keep it together but the slide still won’t stay attached to the playset. A scan of Amazon reviews shows that many people had this same issue.

Other than that major problem, it’s cute. It has an elevator, lights and sounds and a working Periscope. It also includes a Chase action figure and his police SUV. It comes with three button cell batteries.

Final Word on the Paw Patrol Look-out Playset : If the manufacturer can fix the toy’s slide problem, then this will be a big hit. But until then – definitely skip this toy and maybe try one of the other “Paw Patrol” toys on the market.

Which of the toys would I buy for my kids?

I think the Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing doll is a hit for this holiday season, along with the Zoomer Dino and the Vtech Kidzoom Smartwatch. I also like the Simon Swipe for some family, retro fun. Also, if you have a big Elmo fan on your hands, then the Sesame Street Let’s Imagine Elmo is a cute toy to purchase.

Happy Holidays!

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Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-products-services/best-water-bottles/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-products-services/best-water-bottles/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 23:39:54 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34914

I’m constantly on the hunt for a good reusable water bottle for the family- you know, one that is safe (and doesn’t leach chemicals), doesn’t leak, keeps water cold and is sized right for lunchboxes, gym bags and my purse. There are good reasons to ditch buying store-bought water in disposable plastic bottles. About 38 billion non-reusable plastic water bottles don’t get recycled each year. Ugh. So it’s worth it to find an alternative both for the environment and our wallets.  That’s where Alpha Mom comes in.

There are many many options on the market when it comes to reusable water bottles but we think the number one factor to consider is that the water is stored safely in a bottle – without chemicals from the container leaching into it.

Over the past several years, the main concern has been about the chemical BPA which is a key ingredient found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, and until several years ago many plastic food and water/ drink containers were made from plastics that were laced with BPA.

In case you are not up-to-date on BPA, over the years we have heard lots of news reports warning about children’s and pregnant women’s exposure to products containing BPA. The US Department of Health and Human Services has called for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to products containing BPA because of its possible negative health effects on the developing brain, and its possible links to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The FDA has said that exposure to low levels of BPA is safe but since we are all exposed to BPA constantly (plastic toys, plastic food containers, canned foods, store receipts, etc), it’s best to reduce our exposure whenever we can and that includes reusable water bottles. That led to many companies producing plastic food and water containers to switch to BPA-free plastics like Tritan.

But “BPA-free” is not aways a reliable term. For example, reusable bottles made by Sigg (before August 2008) were labeled “BPA free” but a study found (and then Sigg confirmed) that the epoxy used in the liner of their aluminum reusable water bottles contained BPA. Sigg’s current bottles have a new lining that is BPA-free (the lining is called Ecocare) but many Sigg customers felt duped and the company has had to work to win back the trust of customers.

We also learned this past summer (through an investigation by the journal Environmental Health) that many BPA-free plastic containers (including Tritan plastic) may also leak other concerning and estrogen-mimicking chemicals into water and food it stores when the container is exposed to ultraviolet rays (like when you’re on the sports field). One interesting note… reusable water bottle maker Nalgene’s green bottles actually tested negative for these chemicals after exposure to UV rays (mostly likely due to its green color which seems to block the rays) which is why we reviewed it below.

Confused yet?

Don’t panic. We know it’s a lot of information to absorb. But we are trying to make it simple.

When picking the reusable water bottles to test out as potential favorites, we focused on the ones that we know (as of now) to be made of the safest materials for storing water. We chose mainly non-plastic reusable water containers made of food-grade safe materials like stainless steel, aluminum (with BPA-free linings) and glass. We also included Naglene’s BPA-free plastic reusable water bottle in green since it tested safely in the Environmental Health journal research this summer.

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Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with 3.0 Sports Cap (Option A)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Klean Kanteen

I’m in love with the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel water bottle and not just because “KK” happens to also be my initials. It is free of BPA, phthalates, lead and other toxins. The bottle is made from 18/8 food-grade stainless steel and the drinking valve is made from food-grade silicone.  You can drink a lot of water quickly and easily because of the wide spout. About $17 and up depending on the size.

Leak-Proof: Tiny bit of leaking if you really shake it upside down but overall not a problem even if you throw it in your bag. It would be nice if Klean Kanteen created a cap to flip over the spout as an additional defense against leaking. This would also help in the event you drop your bottle, so you’re not cleaning dirt out of the spout. (The company does not claim leak-proof. Instead they claim leak-resistant.)

Taste of Water: I think the water tastes great. My husband thinks it has a weird aftertaste.  If you buy this one, maybe you can be the tie-breaker.

Fits Ice Cubes: Yes. No problem at all.

Outside Condensation: After I fill it with icy, cold water, it definitely has outside condensation.

Keeps Water Cool: Cool enough. Several hours after filling it up with cold water, it is room temperature.

Ease of Cleaning: Very easy because of the wide spout.

Final Word on the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel water bottle: This definitely is a favorite. I loved the flow of the water and the ease of cleaning.  Clips onto a backpack or messenger bag. A number of other reviewers on Amazon did complain about the paint peeling off the outside of the bottle but I have not encountered that problem.

Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with All Stainless Loop Cap (Option B)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Klean Kanteen stainless steel loop cap

The Klean Kanteen Classic water bottle (reviewed above) can also be used with the All Stainless Loop Cap (a very similar cap is also available in BPA-free polypropylene).  This All Stainless Loop Cap twists on and I find it to be completely leakproof. (I really shook it up and down to make sure.) To drink out of it, you just unscrew it. In fact, if you buy the water bottle above with the Sports Cap, you can buy the All Stainless Loop Cap for about $10. So it’s a good investment to buy both. That way you can switch it up whenever you want.

So which size Klean Kanteen Reusable Water Bottle do you buy? 

For preschoolers, I recommend buying the 12 ounce bottle with the Sports Cap for easy drinking without spilling. For kids in elementary school, I would purchase the 18 ounce with Sports Cap or Loop Cap depending on which cap your kid prefers. This size will still fit in most lunchboxes and provides for plenty of water. As for adults – I think the 18 ounce is perfect.  It’s plenty of water but still fits in my purse. But if you are a big outdoor enthusiast, you may need the 27 or 40 ounce. Just know – you are buying a BIG water bottle.

Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (Option A)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Naglene Water Bottle in green

We decided to review Nalgene’s plastic reusable water bottle in green only because one study showed that the green coloring of its bottle blocked UVA rays from affecting the plastic. Why is this important? Because an investigation by the journal Environmental Health showed that many BPA-free plastic containers (including Tritan plastic)  leached concerning estrogen-mimicking chemicals when exposed to UVA rays. And we all know that water bottles can get a lot of sun on the soccer field, in your car or at the playground. So we love the idea that the green color could possibly prevent chemicals from leaching into your water.

The Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (only buy green) is a very affordable (about $8) 12 oz. reusable water bottle. It is made of Tritan plastic which is BPA-free.

This is a durable, leak-proof water bottle that is really suited towards children because of its smaller size. You can clip this bottle to any backpack, diaper bag, or stroller.

Leak-Proof:  Yes. A very small amount of water came out when I really shook it upside down but I was pretty impressed for a so-called sippy cup.

Taste of Water: Tastes good! Like chicken. Kidding. It tasks like water.

Fits Ice Cubes: Easily.

Outside Condensation: Yes, a lot of condensation.

Keeps Water Cool: Yes, stays pretty cool. It stays a bit cooler than the other bottles we tested for this review.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean. But you will need a tiny bottle brush (Dr. Brown’s sells a great one) to really get the inside of the spout clean.

Final Word on the Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (in green only): This is a terrific water bottle for kids. But 12 ounces is way too small for teenagers or adults. Once your kid is past the toddler phase, definitely invest in a larger water bottle like the Naglene On The Fly Water Bottle (in green only) (see below).

Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp with On The Fly Cap (Option B)

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Nalgene On The Fly in green

This Naglene OTF (On The Fly) cap fits the Grip-N-Gulp water bottle but is better suited for older children. It has a flip top that is incredibly leak-proof. Once you open it, you can easily drink. And because it’s so leak proof, you can absolutely feel confident throwing a bottle with this cap into your kid’s lunch or your bag.

The next size up in the green options of Naglene reusable water bottles is 20 oz  and it’s the Nalgene On The Fly Water Bottle so it comes with the awesome and leak-proof cap we use and is also made of Tritan plastic like the Grip-N-Gulp water bottle we use. They don’t make a green water bottle in 18 oz. So if you’re looking for a water bottle for older kids 12 oz might be too small, so 20 oz is probably the best option. However, we didn’t get to see whether 20 oz is too big for our older kids’ lunchboxes.

Sigg Water Bottles

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: SIGG Kids'

Sigg makes lots of different water bottles for adults and kids so we tried out two different kinds – a kids’ water bottle (in a Hello Kitty design but there are many different ones to choose from) and the Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle (targeted at outdoor enthusiasts).

Sigg Kids’ Water Bottle

Sigg’s kids’ reusable water bottles come in two sizes (0.3 liters and 0.4 liters) and cost about $19. Unless you are buying for a toddler, just get the 0.4 liter version which is about 13.5 ounces. This is a pretty great water bottle. Kids love them because they have a variety of cute designs and parents love them because they fit easily into a lunchbox.  Sigg water bottles are available with a variety of different spouts. The Hello Kitty designed water bottle we use has a twist nozzle and a flip-up cap that provides a tight, durable cover.

The reusable water bottle is made from aluminum with an EcoCare liner that is BPA and phthalate free. The bottles are 100% recyclable.

Leak-Proof: Absolutely no leaking – as long as you remember to close the spout before putting the cap on. If you only put the cap on – you’re in trouble. But if used properly, you should feel very secure putting this water bottle into your bag.

Taste of Water: Just like the Klean Kanteen above, my husband thought this bottle left a metallic aftertaste and I thought it tasted completely normal. Maybe there are metallic people and non-metallic people. Best to figure out which one you are.  My kids have no complaints about the taste of the water but keep in mind, these are the same kids that will think nothing of drinking 3 day old water that happens to be sitting by their bedside.

Fits Ice Cubes: I thought there was no way ice cubes would fit into this bottle but I was wrong! Standard ice cubes go right in one at a time.

Outside Condensation: There is a bit of condensation after I fill it with ice cold water.

Keeps Water Cool: Keeps water reasonably cool but after several hours, it was room temperature.

Ease of Cleaning: Your standard kitchen brush will NOT fit in this water bottle. You will need one of those more narrow brushes that is meant for cleaning baby bottles.

Final Word on Sigg’s kids’ reusable water bottles: This is a favorite of ours because I love how it does not leak and the designs are super cute for kids and adults.

Sigg Active Top Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles

The Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle seems to range drastically in price ($15 to $29) depending on where you buy it. It’s a big water bottle (.75 liters or about 25 oz). You can buy a similar water bottle called SIGGnificant that comes in a 1 liter or almost 34 ounces but we didn’t specifically try that one out.

The Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle apparently has state-of-the-art engineering with a pressure-relief valve and pre-ventilation system.” All I know is that I couldn’t really drink out of it. Neither could my husband. Nor my kids. It’s like you need a YouTube tutorial to figure out how to get water out of this thing.

It has a straw inside but the outside mouthpiece is sort of a mystery. I tried using it like a straw. Nothing. I tried guzzling it. Nothing. I tried biting the mouthpiece. A trickle of water. I’m puzzled. The idea is to not have to unscrew the bottle, so you can simply reach for your beverage when you’re thirsty and on the go. I’m not a marketing genius but it seems like customers will get mad if they can’t actually drink the water.

BPA and phthalate free.

Leak-Proof: Tiny bit of leaking if you really shook it upside down.

Taste of Water: What little water I could get out of it, tasted fine.

Fits Ice Cubes: Fits ice cubes easily.

Outside Condensation: There was condensation on the outside after I filled it with ice cold water. Hey, I can just lick the outside of the bottle to stay hydrated!

Keeps Water Cool: Kept water reasonable cool.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean most of it. The inside straw might be a pain to clean over time.

Final Word on the Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle: Do not buy this water bottle. If you do, please tell me how it works.

Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle

The Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle is available in 12, 16 or 22 ounce sizes for about $19 to $22. It comes with a silicone sleeve which makes it easy to grip and and a flip cap. The glass bottle and cap are BPA/BPS-free with no phthalates, PVC or polycarbonates.

There is just a comfort that comes with a glass bottle. I love not worrying about chemicals leaching into the water! But glass is much heavier than plastic, stainless steel or aluminum which can be an issue for some people. The 16 oz water bottle we use fits into my children’s lunchbox but it might not fit in smaller-sized ones.

Leak-Proof:  It can leak a tiny bit if you don’t really secure the flip cap and I worried about the flip cap coming off entirely in my bag.

Taste of Water:  Water tastes great.

Fits Ice Cubes: Easily.

Outside Condensation: Yes, but the rubber sleeve makes it pretty not noticeable.

Keeps Water Cool: Reasonably cool.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean.

Final Word on the Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle: I love this bottle and I love drinking out of glass but the top makes me a little nervous. Because my water bottles always end up topsy turvy in my bag. I was not 100% confident that the flip cap was going to be completely secure if the bottle really got thrown around in my purse. And if the flip top doesn’t stay on, your stuff is going to get wet.

Surprisingly, I think this is quite safe for older kids. The glass is thick and the silicone helps protect it. I even held my breath and dropped it on the ground a couple times and it did not break. See what I’m willing to do for you guys?

Takeya Classic Glass Reusable Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Takeya Classic Glass
This is another option for a reusable glass water bottle. I really like this one.  The Takeya Classic glass reusable water bottle comes in two sizes… 16.5 or 22.5 ounces for about $17 to $22.  It has a silicone sleeve which provides a good grip and a top that is completely leak-proof. The 16.5 ounce water bottle will fit into a kid’s lunchbox as long as the lunchbox isn’t too small.

Like the Lifefactory water bottle reviewed above, this is made from pretty thick glass with a protective sleeve and it did not break when I dropped it on the ground. I don’t use this water bottle with my toddler or preschoolers (because it’s glass and heavier) but I totally let my tweens use it.

Leak-Proof:  No leaking. At all.

Taste of Water:  Water tastes great.

Fits Ice Cubes: Ice cubes fit but it would be nice if it had a wider spout for easier refills.

Outside Condensation: Yes, but the rubber sleeve makes it non-issue.

Keeps Water Cool: As cool as any other water bottle.

Ease of Cleaning: You will need a more narrow bottle brush to clean it. And it’s a bit difficult to get the silicone sleeve on and off so I left it on when I cleaned it.

Final Word on the Takeya Classic glass reusable water bottle: I like this reusable water bottle because of its simplicity. No fancy spout that leaks. You just screw the top on and off. The 16 ounce fits easily into my purse but seems to run out of water quickly so I would go with the 22 ounce bottle for adults. And I would love a bigger spout. But it still a favorite of mine and I did prefer it slightly over the Lifefactory bottle because there is just no possibility of Takeya leaking.  However, if you need a super light water bottle, then glass is probably not the right option for you.

__________________________________

What Reusable Water Bottle Should I Buy?

Obviously I stayed enormously hydrated while doing this review. Here are my final recommendations….

For the kids, there are some great water bottle options. I recommend the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel with Sports Cap (mentioned above) in the 12 oz. size.  I also love both the Sigg kids’ reusable water bottle  (which is available in lots of cute designs) and the Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (in green only).  The Sigg kids’ water bottle in the Hello Kitty design is adorable and totally leak-proof for school kids. The 0.4 liters (which is about 13.5 ounces) is the perfect size. And the 12oz Nalgene is fabulous because with the sippy cup top and the “On The Fly” top – this water bottle can take you from toddlerhood right into elementary school. The Nalgene is also a great deal money-wise.

For adults, I love the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with 3.0 Sports Cap in 18 ounces. I just found it lightweight, not too big, easy to drink from and not a problem to clean. I also really liked the Takeya Classic Glass Reusable Water Bottle because it is completely leakproof and I really like the feel of drinking from a glass bottle. The 16 oz seemed a little small so next time I’ll probably get the 22 oz.

Alpha Mom purchased all of the bottles reviewed here.  

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Keep Calm and Carry On (with Empowered SAFETY) http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/empowered-safety-product-recalls/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/empowered-safety-product-recalls/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:15:54 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35029

This post is brought to you by our partner Empowered SAFETY a cool service for parents (giveaway + free trial info below)

When I first became a mom, I felt like some kind of mommy impostor taking my newborn home. I couldn’t figure out why they were letting me leave the hospital with this baby and how was I going to keep her safe?! Was this an irrational fear? Yes. But a real emotion? Absolutely.

Empowered Safety: cool service for tracking important health and safety info for kids

Why had I taken six weeks of childbirth classes and one minuscule hour of newborn care? I mean, the baby was coming out one way or another. But I had to care for this child for the rest of her life and I couldn’t find an instruction manual anywhere.

Fast forward 10 years and my husband and I now have five kids so I guess we figured something out. But parenthood is chaotic, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.

For example, take product recalls. Please tell me how I am supposed to keep on top of product recalls between packing lunches, giving baths, helping with homework, running kids to activities and you know, once in awhile fitting in an actual pedicure? Just in 2013, there were 113 children’s products recalled. Whoa. I couldn’t name one of them. I went through the list and thankfully none of my kids’ stuff was on there but nothing like perusing a whole bunch of recalls to make me a little concerned as a parent.

That’s why I’m kind of obsessed with Empowered SAFETY. It’s a super simple way of knowing which children’s products have consumer complaints and recalls.  Researchers monitor products, pulling together complaints and recalls into one, easy to use place.

With the premium package, it’s actually the only service to notify parents of complaints BEFORE there is an actual recall on an item.  For example, with one stroller, there were complaints as early as 2009 but the product wasn’t recalled until 2014. It’s pretty scary to think of all the kids who could be potentially hurt or even killed between the time a few parents file a complaint about an item and it is actually off store shelves.

Premium members can also use the site, and its extensive database, to research complaints before they even make a purchase. You don’t have to comb the internet looking for issues. The company does it for you. It’s like having a personal assistant except they don’t pick up your dry-cleaning.

My family and I examine and test out a lot of different children’s products, gear and toys for this very website. Before we bring them into our home, I’m always reading reviews from other parents who like us have purchased the product to find out if there are any problems or safety concerns. This research is time consuming. Parents are on the frontline when it comes to noticing a potential problem with a product and we depend on each other when it comes to keeping our kids safe.

What I like best about Empowered SAFETY’s service is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with too much information because is there anyone who needs more email?! You receive info relevant to the products you register, health topics where you you live and your children’s ages. The company also sends you notifications on food safety like national food recalls. Here’s a screenshot showing just a few of the items from my Empowered SAFETY newsfeed this week…

Empowered Safety: cool service for tracking important health and safety info for kids

As a mom, I don’t want to be ridiculously obsessive about safety but I don’t want to stick my head in the sand either.  Empowered SAFETY is your zen place when it comes to children’s products. Buying a new crib? Before you plunk down a chunk of cash, check the crib model in the database to see whether there have been any consumer complaints and and of course what exactly is of concern. If all is clear, then buy it and register it on the site to keep up-to-date on it. (This service available to premium members.)

Empowered Safety: cool service for tracking important health and safety info for kids

And it’s also super helpful when borrowing items from friends. I remember almost borrowing a crib tent for my very spirited toddler until I found out they all were recalled because of safety concerns.

Empowered SAFETY offers different family plans (the basic and premium plan are less than 50 cents a day which is way cheaper than a pumpkin spice latte) and you can even do a free two-week trial which I totally recommend that you do. Better yet, Alpha Mom readers get a free 28-day trial. Here’s your promo code: ES28DAY92. This code expires on 11/30/14 so sign up now to take better advantage of the offer.

Empowered SAFETY is not only a helpful resource for the first time mom but great for us more seasoned moms who might be a bit crazy with multiple kids (with tons of homework) and not always able to focus on recalls and product safety issues. (And by “seasoned,” I mean “beautiful and glowing” from all our years of motherhood.)

Also be sure to enter our giveaway below. One reader will be chosen randomly to receive six months of free access to Empowered SAFETY. Enter using the widget below.

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This is a sponsored post written by Alpha Mom on behalf of Empowered Safety. Thank you readers for supporting our partners.

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A Mother Manifesto: Be More Than Kind. Embrace Other Mothers. http://alphamom.com/parenting/making-mom-friends/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/making-mom-friends/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 17:53:34 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34415

When I first moved to Florida from New York, it was overwhelming. Everywhere I went, I searched for familiar faces but of course there were none. A few weeks in, I was talking to another mom in my twins’ preschool class. It turned out we both had older girls too. She seemed nice. This was promising! “Maybe we could do a playdate one afternoon,” I said.

“I can’t. My girls have gymnastics every afternoon. Our schedule is packed,” she responded.

And that was it. She said nothing more.  And I didn’t really know how to respond other than to say, “Ok” and go cry in my car. Yes, I really cried in my car.

I’m not the only one to have this kind of experience. Another new mom I know tried to up a playdate and was told, “My kids have all the friends they need.” But of course that wasn’t really the point. This was a mom who was just trying to make some friends. A playdate was just a way to hopefully get there.

Making new friends is not for the weak. It’s completely exhausting. You get constant flashbacks to junior high and the intense desire to fit in and be liked. And it’s very lonely at times.

I think as moms we can do better when it comes to reaching out, supporting and embracing new moms in our communities. Yes, it’s wonderful to introduce yourself and say hi. But you can do more. And it doesn’t take much effort. Planning a girls night out with your girlfriends? Invite the new mom. Meeting a bunch of moms at the playground? Invite the new mom. Having a birthday lunch for someone? Invite the new mom. It just gives her an opportunity to start meeting people, making connections and finding her community. And it might turn out you really love hanging out with her too.

It’s easy once you get settled in your life to just coast. I’ve been there. You’re busy. You have your friends. But put some extra positive energy into the world and embrace some moms who are probably crying in their cars right now.

And if you’re new, keep reaching out and trying too.  You can’t just sit back and wait for the invitations to roll in. Because they just might not. And it’s not necessarily personal. It’s just that people are living their lives.

Every few weeks, I try to invite one mom over with her kids for a playdate/ pizza dinner. Because who doesn’t like to be invited over for a playdate where your kids get fed and you don’t have to do any of the clean up?!

If it’s not a love connection, we both move on. It’s like suburban dating in the comfort of my home.

I’ve now been in Florida a year and I have definitely made some friends.  I don’t feel a sense of community yet. It doesn’t feel like home. I still feel lonely at times. But it does feel a little bit better.

And that mom who shut me down because of her children’s packed gymnastics schedule? She ended up inviting me over to her pool and we’ve hung out several times since. I really like her and it looks like we became friends after all.

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The 10 Hottest Back-To-School Items for 2014 http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-products-services/hottest-back-to-school-items-2014/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-products-services/hottest-back-to-school-items-2014/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:58:46 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34098

Every school year, there are certain items that kids are just DYING for – the must-haves of the back-to-school season. I polled my family, my mom friends and anyone else that would return my emails to find out what is hot right now. Take a look and also – tell us what your kids are loving this season. (We already covered back-to-school essentials and best retailers)

1. It rhymes with The Chosen. Yes, anything Frozen.

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: anything with Frozen characters on it

 

 

The younger set (like the preschool kids) can’t get enough of Anna, Elsa and that hilarious snowman Olaf. I bought my 4-year-old an Elsa backpack and she wanted to know if there was an Elsa barbie doll inside? There wasn’t. But it was sweet of her to ask. Think of any school supply and there is a good chance you can find one with the Frozen theme. Except maybe Frozen glue sticks. I’m sure they are in production.

2. Flash Temporary Tattoos

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Flash temporary tattoos

Hey, at least Flash Tattoos aren’t real tattoos and these are pretty gorgeous. Like you might steal them from your kids. They last 4 to 6 days and will definitely add some sparkle to all that homework.

3.  Nike Elite Socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Nike Elite athletic socks

Who knew boys could care so much about their socks? Apparently so because Nike Elite Socks are still the rage. Don’t get what all the fuss is about? Ask a middle school boy.

4. Printed Socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: printed socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: printed socks

The socks mania continues with these insanely adorable printed socks. Baseballs, cookies and many other bright prints will make any boring school day a little bit more fun. Plus, this is the first time you will look at your socks and actually want to eat them.

5. Neon Colors

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: supply and gear in Neon Colors

A lot of kids are into the bright neon colors (hello 1986, good to see you again.) Neon backpacks (like this Nike Hoops Elite Team backpack shown here), neon cleats a neon fuzzy pencil case and you can even buy what every kid needs… a neon dream catcher. This is all making me miss my rubber neon bracelets that I wore to my first Madonna concert.

6. Locker Decor

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Locker Decor

You just know someone out there has hired a decorator for their kids locker. Because it’s all about the disco ballthe chandelierthe carpetthe wallpaper…. hey, I wonder if anyone has put in a hot tub? Now my old high school locker seems so lame. Some parents even secretly decorate their child’s locker at back-to-school night. Man, I wish I was that mom.

7. Slap Bracelet Rulers

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Snap Bracelet Ruler

I know what you are thinking! Didn’t we already do this slap bracelet thing? Yes, but now it’s new and improved! Because these slap bracelets double as rulers. Available online or Target also sells some super cute ones at their stores for only $2.

8. Justice Backpacks, Lunch Boxes and Water Bottles

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Justice Backpacks, Lunch Boxes and Water Bottles

Not social justice. But rather the clothing cult of Justice. I don’t know what it is about this store but all my friends with tween girls go nuts over this place. Something about the sparkles and crazy patterns. Lots of fun back-to-school bags, lunch boxes and water bottles. This backpack is just the cutest with a little hoodie zippered to the back.

9: Sneakers and Indoor Soccer Shoes

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Sneakers and Indoor Soccer Shoes

When it comes to sneakers, a lot of boys are dying for Nike LeBron or Nike KD sneakers. And indoor soccer shoes  are super popular too (playing soccer is not required to wear these cool kicks).

10. Yoobi School Supplies

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Yoobi School Supplies

Not only are these school supplies bright and fun, the company has a mission to help stock classrooms in desperate need of supplies. So for every Yoobi item purchased, one is contributed to a K-3 class in the U.S. through the Kids in Need Foundation. Available at Target.

And finally, if you are looking for something for yourself, I just fell in love with these Pop Art Dry Erase Boards from The Container Store. What a great way to stay organized during the school year.

Pop Art Dry Erase Boards

What products are your kids asking for this back-to-school season?  We’re very curious.

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Best Outdoor Toys for Your Kids This Summer http://alphamom.com/family-fun/best-outdoor-toys-reviewed/ http://alphamom.com/family-fun/best-outdoor-toys-reviewed/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:45:35 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=33473

So school is out and you’re already thinking… Did my kid always complain this much? Before you throw on the TV or let your kids play video games all day in desperation, check out some of these awesome outdoor toys we reviewed. They have been tested by my children and a few neighbors and any other kid that looked bored. And some of these toys definitely got the Alpha Mom Favorite award!

OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set, $29.99

The OgoSport and other Best Outdoor ToysI actually thought the name of this toy, the OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set, was a joke. How is this toy recommendation supposed to spread by word of mouth? “My kids were playing this great game at the beach. You should get it! It’s call – Umm…. I don’t know OhNo something. Forget it.” But despite the tongue twister name, it’s actually quite fun. The OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set is a hand trampoline for balls. It definitely takes some skill and practice and it’s not for super young kids. It’s great to play in the pool because it doesn’t sink. It should also definitely come with two balls because you are going to lose one. Luckily, you can also use it with other balls or even water balloons. You can even use the disks themselves as a frisbee of sorts.

Strengths: Fun for kids and adults. Lots of different ways to use this toy.

Weaknesses: I wish there was a way to attach the ball to one of the disks when not in use because it seems very easy to lose.

Final Word on the OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk SetGood summer fun! Buy it.

YBike Balance Bike, $84.99

The YBike and other Best Outdoor ToysI had my doubts about the YBIKE. It looked like the kind of thing my kids would ride once and then quickly deposit into the unused, ignored toy graveyard. But I was very wrong.

This is a great vehicle for the younger set (ages 2 – 4). It comes in lots of bright colors and preschoolers power the bike by pushing off their feet and they can actually get some real speed if they try. The Y Bike also improves balance, coordination and motor skills. But my young son mostly likes to crash into things.

It’s also very easy to assemble (seriously).

Strengths:  Easy to assemble and fun.

Weaknesses: Not cheap but if you buy it when they are 2 years old, you should get some good life out of it.

Final Word on the YBIKEIf your kid already owns a tricycle, this is a nice addition.

Spooner Board, $44.99

The Spooner Board and other Best Outdoor ToysThe Spooner Board is a balancing board that can be used for pretty much anything. You can balance on it, spin on it, and do tricks with it. My kids put it on our trampoline (I’m guessing because they are never satisfied until they have injured themselves in some way).

The Spooner definitely seems like a great way to practice skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding techniques all year round. And the company touts that it improves core strength and stability, leg strength, balance, coordination and gross-motor skills.

No assembly (yay!) and very durable (double yay!) Only problem? My kids didn’t really play with it for long but I think it might be the kind of toy that reemerges later.

Strengths:  No assembly, durable and perfect for the skateboarder, surfer or snowboarder in your family.

Weaknesses: Might take a little while for your kids to figure out exactly what to do with it. Great ideas on the company’s website.

Final Word on the Spooner BoardBuy it for your sports enthusiast but don’t expect just any kid to latch on to this thing.

Kidoozie Super Skipper, $35.98

kidoozieSee how much fun those kids are having with the Kidoozie Super Skipper? Your children will definitely not have that much fun. Basically your kids jump to the music as the pole revolves around the electronic base. It features 3 adjustable height modes and 3 different skipping speeds.

But here’s the problem. The skipping speeds are too fast. My 4 year olds could not jump quickly enough which made it very frustrating. The products is designed for age 3 to 15. But 3 is too young for this and there is no 15 year old on the planet who would do this for very long. Probably best for 5 to 7 year olds.

Needs three C batteries. Does not come with a good way to store it unless you keep the big box. It’s easy to assemble but gets knocked apart very quickly during play.

Strengths:  This might be a great way to get some energy out indoors during the winter months.

Weaknesses: Too fast. Needs a slower speed for 3 and 4 year olds. Read the directions or else you will think it’s broken when you are trying to start it.

Final Word on the Kidoozie Super SkipperI would skip this unless your kid loves jumping or she/he tried it at a friend’s house and really liked it.

Franklin Sports MLB Pitching Machine, $28.49

The Franklin Sports Ball Pitcher and other Best Outdoor ToysThis pitching machine is a great way for your kids to hit some balls. Very easy to assemble and there is a height adjustment for pitches. The ball pitches every 10 seconds, comes out fast and can be a little erratic, so watch out.

If you buy this for your kids, you will spend a lot of time retrieving balls from the neighbor’s yard, but weren’t you doing that anyway? Comes with 6 balls and I wish there were more because invariably you will lose some. Given the price, I do not expect this to last forever. It’s also quite easy to forget to turn off which means you will burn through the 4 “D” batteries (included).

Intended for kids ages 8 and up which seems about right.

Strengths: Fun outdoor activity.

Weaknesses: Ball pitch not always consistent, and fast. You will need more balls. May not be the most durable but it’s pretty low cost for a pitching machine.

Final Word on the Franklin Sports Mlb Pitching MachineA good first pitching machine for your daughter or son.

Banzi Bestselling Geyser Blast Sprinker, $29.99

crazy sprinklerDid they just put “Bestselling” in the title of their product? Well played, Banzi. The Banzai Geyser Blast Sprinkler is one of those fun, summer items that you don’t really need because a regular sprinkler is just as fun and it’s sitting in your garage right now. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a “geyser” or a “blast” of water but it does shoot water around in different directions and my kids had a ball running through it.

We had no problems with this product but I did notice a lot of complaints on Amazon from folks upset that it didn’t work properly right out of the box.

Strengths: Great activity on a hot summer day.

Weaknesses: Your kids can get the same amount of fun out of the sprinkler you already own.

Final Word on the Banzai Geyser Blast SprinklerSkip it unless your child has his/her heart set on a crazy sprinkler.

Mookie Classic Swingball, $44.99

The Mookie Swingball and other Best Outdoor ToysI have always been a big fan of swing ball (called zim zam back in the day) because it’s really fun to play with your kids and also a terrific way to get out your aggressions. Basically you are trying to hit the ball one way while your opponent tries to hit it the other way. It’s perfect for kids 5 and up (and plenty of adults too). Kids younger than 5 will get frustrated.

This is very easy to assemble but I had a difficult time getting the stake into the ground. There needs to be a wider step on the pole. We even went to our neighbors to ask for a sledgehammer which is a strange request and we came up empty. So we never could get that stake properly installed. We were still able to play even though the pole flopped around a bit.  I’m also not a big fan of holes in my yard but the fun made it worth it.

Final note – there is a way to hang the paddles from the pole which is a nice feature.

Strengths:  Fun activity for kids and adults.

Weaknesses: Quite difficult to get the pole into the ground, plus it makes a hole in your yard.

Final Word on the Mookie Classic SwingballStill worth it. Buy it. And find a neighbor who has a sledgehammer.

Flybar Foam Maverick Pogo Stick, $39.99

21AP3D7DPRLYou can’t really buy a pogo stick without someone mentioning some kind of pogo stick accident. So I guess they can be dangerous and it’s probably a good idea to wear a helmet. This one is for ages 5 and up. It safety supports 40 to 80 pounds.

It can take some practice to get the feel of it so don’t assume your child is too young if they can’t jump up and down right away. Pogo sticks seems very cool the first day you get them. And kind of cool the second day. And well by the third, they are propped up against the wall.

If your kid really wants a pogo stick, ask around and maybe you can get a second hand one at no cost to you.

Strengths:  Great exercise, long shelf life.

Weaknesses: Kids might get a little bored after the initial excitement.

Final Word on the Flybar Foam Maverick Pogo Stick For $40, I’d try to find a used one first.

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Got a great summer outdoor toy your kids love? Share please!! Alpha Mom purchased all toys for this review. 

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Books Girls Love http://alphamom.com/family-fun/books-girls-love/ http://alphamom.com/family-fun/books-girls-love/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 19:36:27 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=32995

With school getting out, my girls (ages 7 and 9) have a little more free time on their hands, and that means they can’t wait to catch up on their reading. Wait, did I say reading? I meant TV.

When it comes to reading, I often have to pry a One Direction fan book out of their little hands. By the way, did you know that frontman Harry Styles (age 20) says he would never date anyone older than his mum who is 44? I guess that means I have precious little time to get Harry’s attention. Wish me luck!

Before my daughters can watch TV each day, they have to do some reading. Even in the summer – I know, I am an evil mom. And the truth is there are books they and other girls LOVE. (And I’m confident boys too). I asked my local librarian for  suggestions and also asked my mom friends what books their own daughters are loving. Here is a list that might inspire someone in your house to pause the Frozen movie… even if just for a few minutes.

1. Judy Blume books
Yup, totally old school and awesome. No, not Forever for the elementary school set. But books like Tales of a Fourth Grade NothingOtherwise Known as Sheila the GreatSuperfudgeFudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge are funny and real. Major parental warning: Superfudge brings up the topic of how babies are made and not believing in Santa Claus. Also uses the words “stupid” and “shut up” more than I would have liked. (Ages 7 and up but heed the Santa Claus Warning!)

2. The Cupcake Diaries by Coco Simon
My girls haven’t read this collection yet but these books have been described as an “obsession” by a friend’s daughter. They focus on group of middle school girls who start a cupcake club. Deals with real life situations and lots of yummy cupcakes. (Ages 8 – 12)

3. Cam Jansen Mysteries by David Adler
Got a daughter who loves a good mystery?  Cam Jansen is a kid with a photographic memory who solves mysteries all over town. These are not scary mysteries. At all. (recommended for ages 8 – 12 but I think it skews a little younger)

4. Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew series by Carolyn Keene
Another great mystery series! Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew is a a relaunch of the classic Nancy Drew series. 3rd grader Nancy and her friends start their own detectives club.  (ages 6 – 9)

5. A to Z Mysteries  by Ron Roy and John Burnery
These books (beginning with the The Absent Author and ending with The Zombie Zone) follow the adventures of three child detectives. They are nine years old and live in Green Lawn, a fictional town in Connecticut. (ages  6 – 9)

6.  Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows
This series is based on two friends who are very different and who never meant to like each other – Ivy (a quiet, intellectual kid) and Bean (a spirited child). They are both 8 years old and get in lots of mischief. (age 6 and up)

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
This series is not just for boys! In these beloved books, Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school and must deal with the growing pains of school life. (ages 7 – 13)

8. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
I want to party with Junie B. Jones because she is hilarious. This series is really a pleasure to read, except for the bad grammar which I constantly corrected. Read every one. (ages 6 – 9)

9. My Weird School Daze series by Dan Gutman
This series centers around A.J. (a boy who doesn’t like school) and his enemy Andrea Young (who loves school). You just know those two are going to get married someday. It’s silly, funny and of course, weird.  (ages 6 – 10)

10. Kelsey Green, Reading Queen by Claudia Mills
Part of the Franklin School Friends series. My daughter was obsessed with this book featuring Kelsey Green, the best reader in the 3rd grade. Also check out Annika Riz, Math Whiz.

11. Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows
This series focuses on magical fairies (are there non-magical fairies?) and some girls are just in love with these fairy adventure books. (ages 7 – 10 but I think it’s skews a bit younger)

12. Magic Puppy Series by Sue Bentley
If magic fairies aren’t your kid’s thing, how about some magical puppies? My daughter desperately wants a dog so I told her she could have a book about a dog. The magic is just a bonus. (ages 7 – 11)

13. Soccer Sister series by Andrea Montalbano
If your daughter loves soccer or other sports, this might be a great fit.  Good positive messages about friendships, family and playing sports.  (ages 9 – 13)

14. American Girl historical books by various authors
I keep trying to hate American Girl products because of those ridiculously expensive dolls but the truth is, there are some great American Girl books. They have a whole series of historical books focused on girls that lived centuries ago (like before TVs and iPads people). You daughters will learn a whole lot of history which isn’t a bad thing between ice pops and movies this summer. (age 8 and up)

15. Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark by Ann McGovern
This book focuses on the true-life adventures of Eugenie Clark, an expert on sharks. If your daughter loves the ocean, she will be fascinated with Clark’s adventures in the sea, including diving with sharks. Why would anyone dive with sharks?! I don’t know but it’s great to read about. (ages 7 – 10)

16. Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm
This coming of age book is centered around 11-year-old Penny in the summer of 1953.  Penny spends her summer trying to convince her mother she won’t catch polio from the community pool, keeping her cousin from turning into a criminal and trying to figure out the truth of how her father died. (age 9 – 12)

17. Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven
This series is about an 8 year old girl Heidi Heckelbeck who is secretly a witch! She tries to keep her powers hidden as she lives life as an ordinary kid. Lots of illustrations and perfect for beginning readers. (ages 5 – 7)

18.  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo
This is the adventures of Edward Tulane (a china rabbit) who is loved by a young girl but then lost over the side of a boat. The book follows his journey and the people he encounters. Rabbits have all the fun, don’t they? (ages 7 – 10)

So run by your local library and pick up some of these books. My daughters are currently reading the Judy Blume books and we can’t wait to work our way down the list. And don’t forget to tell us your daughters’ favorites. Happy reading!

*****

(This is a companion piece to Books Boys Love

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Best Night Lights for Kids http://alphamom.com/parenting/best-night-lights-for-kids/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/best-night-lights-for-kids/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 00:12:56 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=32386

With all kinds of imaginary monsters lurking about, nighttime can get pretty scary for little ones.  But there are fabulous night lights on the market that can ward off spooky shadows and light the way to the bathroom, too. My family tried out some of the most popular ones available. Find out which lights are official Alpha Mom Favorites!

Onaroo Night Owl Portable Night-Light with OK to Wake!

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comI am already a big fan of the Onaroo products, so I was interested to try out the Onaroo Night Owl. I had a real live (loud!) owl hanging out on my roof for about 4 days and I like this fake one better.

This $30 sweet owl glows in 3 soft colors: yellow, blue and pink. The cool led lighting generates no heat and turns on automatically in a power outage. It remains lit on an ac-powered base or runs on batteries if kids want to take it to the bathroom or in bed with them. When running on batteries, it will turn off after 30 minutes.

Speaking of the batteries, I kept thinking this clock (which takes 3 AA batteries) should just have a battery that can be recharged while it’s sitting on the base. But rechargeable batteries do eventually wear out, so maybe the replaceable batteries will give you a longer shelf life.

Another potentially cool feature of this night light is that you can set it to glow green in the morning – letting a child know that it’s ok to wake his or her parents. BUT this feature has some major problems.

This seems crazy but you actually have to wait until the time of day you want to set (like 7 am) and then hold the button down for 5  seconds. Let me repeat that. You can’t just set this wake up feature ahead of time. You have to run into your kids room like a crazed lunatic at exactly 7 am and press the button down.

If you have somehow accomplished that, the green light will go off at 7 am but will only stay on for 30 minutes. So if your kid (by the grace of God) sleeps until 7:31, the light won’t be green and your toddler will be seriously confused. Normally I’m on board with confusing toddlers (I swear that whole wheat vegan muffin is a “cupcake”) but this is not a good tactic when trying to get little ones to sleep longer.

Strengths: Good amount of light (not too bright, not too dim), sits on a powered base to save batteries, cute owl.

Weaknesses: Ok-to-Wake feature is sort of useless since it’s a major pain to set and it only lasts 30 minutes.

Final Word on the Onaroo Night Owl Night-Light: Although I still love Onaroo, skip this owl unless you just want to use it as a night light. If you need a way to keep your kids in bed in the morning, check out these clocks on the market.

Quarter Moon Kinderglo Portable Fun and Safe Rechargeable Night Light

I feel like these night lights are competing for longest name possible! The Quarter Moon Kinderglo Night Light (I shortened it) will run you about $25.

Best Night Lights for Kids: Kinderglo MoonIt’s an adorable night light that is very easy for little hands to hold. It’s perfect to bring to the bathroom or under the covers. It’s also rechargeable, plus BPA- and lead-free. There are other animals available like an elephant, bear and dinosaur but I really like the moon.

You can either choose changing colors or constant blue, red or green. It either automatically dims and shuts off after 30 minutes or you can set it to be on continuously.

My older daughters (ages 7 and 9) thought it was too bright and didn’t want it in their room. I feel like it’s a great light for a preschooler or for a baby’s room because it gives you enough light for nighttime changes or feeding.

Strengths: Easy to hold, not hot, soothing colors, BPA- and lead-free.

Weaknesses: Too bright for some kids.

Final Word on the Kinderglo Portable Night Light: It’s hard to say whether the rechargeable batteries are a plus or a minus because you don’t have to deal with batteries but rechargeable batteries only last so long. But I really like the design of the moon and its features, especially for a baby’s room.

Hippo Belly Glo Rechargeable Nightlight

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comI love a hippo. I don’t know why mice get so much play in children’s books because as Sandra Boynton knows – hippos are the rock stars.  This Hippo Belly Glo Night Light will cost you about $18.

It turns on automatically when it gets dark. You can choose white light or shifting colors in blue, red and green. The removable belly LED bulb plugs into the wall to recharge and then the light supposedly lasts about 8 hours per charge. This makes no sense because that wouldn’t even be a full night for the average toddler. But I have found it lasts much longer than 8 hours. In fact, I noticed that it stayed charged for many nights in a row.

This is a very cute simple night light. I only wish when you plugged it into the wall, you could keep the hippo around it since that would be a nice option. It would also be cute if this hippo was sold in different colors.

Strengths: Turns on automatically when it gets dark, Latex and BPA free, cute hippo.

Weaknesses: No plug in base so you do have to continually recharge, charge only lasts 8 hours (although in my experience it was much longer), when you plug the light in, you have to take hippo casing off.

Final Word on Hippo Belly Glo Rechargeable Nightlight: A cute twist on a traditional night light but be prepared to charge it more often then you feel like it.

The Bunny Woodland Mini Night Light

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comIf you have ever lived in New York City or anywhere else where you developed a rodent phobia, this might not be the night light for you. These porcelain woodland creatures come in the shape of a bunny, bird, hedgehog and squirrel. Okay, maybe those aren’t official “rodents” but I’m not a big fan of little creatures in my house.

But if you don’t have NYC Rodent Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, you might love these little creatures!

These Woodland Mini Night Lights will cost you about $11. The battery operated LED light gives off a soft glow. My daughters (7 and 9) thought it was the perfect brightness. BUT it’s not recommended for all night use. In fact, according to the product description, it work better as a “charming decorative accent.” Huh. I really don’t know what that means.

The light uses three AG10 long lasting button batteries. Those are the watch batteries you never just have lying around. My bunny burned out pretty quickly because we never remembered to shut it off and then I didn’t have replacement batteries. So now it just sits and mocks me like only a porcelain bunny can.

Strengths: If your kids has been begging you for a pet but you hate shedding, this porcelain bunny might be the answer! Soft glow.

Weaknesses: Not intended for all night use, batteries died quickly.

Final Word on The Bunny Woodland Mini Night Light: Not an easy, kid friendly night light. Seems like it belongs in a porcelain animal collection (if you have one of those).

Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light

Best Night Lights for Kids: Cloud b Twilight TurtleI can save you a whole lot of reading and just tell you to purchase this adorable turtle for about $33. I love love love this turtle. It’s soft and projects a soothing light in blue, green and amber.

But not just light – actual star constellations! It even comes with its own star guide (but don’t look for the location of George Clooney’s home – these are just constellations). Now I couldn’t really make out any specific constellations but once I’ve sang my twin 4-year-olds a few songs, I’m sort of booking it out of the room and not sticking around for star gazing.

This night light just projects a calming essence. And kids can snuggle in bed with it too. It also has 45 minute timer which ensures darkness during your child’s deep sleep.

Batteries (3 AAA) are included.

Strengths: Soft, adorable, calming night light. Easy for kids to push it back on if needed.

Weaknesses: I’m still trying to think of one.

Final Word on Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light: Why haven’t you bought it yet?!

Pillow Pets Dream Lites Butterfly Night Lite

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comThis night light from the makers of the Pillow Pet craze is a very similar to the Cloud b concept (reviewed above). It’s kind of like a mini pillow pet that lights up. Your child just presses a button and it turns their bedroom ceiling into a starry night sky.

You can either set the light on amber, blue or green or have it cycle from color to color. You also can set the timer on the back so that it goes off after a certain amount of time to save batteries.

I don’t know how long it stays on because I’m already downstairs drinking some Sauvignon Blanc but probably long enough that your child drifts off to sleep before it shuts off.  I keep it on the timer option (instead of all night) and don’t have to replace the batteries all that often.

In addition to the butterfly, there is a unicorn, bear, puppy, Hello Kitty and many others. The price seems to really range (anywhere from $13 to $30) so don’t buy it at the first place you find it.

Strengths: Cute, soft night light that will light up your child’s room.

Weaknesses: You’ll have yet another “pillow pet” in your home.

Final Word on Pillow Pets Dream Lites Butterfly Night Light:  Not as plush as the Cloud b Twilight Turtle but still very cute.

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So which night lights did I love most?

The Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light just won me over. It’s so plush and calming. I feel like any kid could just stare at those stars and drift off to the magical land of sleep. I also am a big fan of the  Quarter Moon Kinderglo Night Light – especially for a baby nursery.  It’s the perfect amount of light to change or feed a baby and it would transition so nicely into a toddler night light.

Happy sleeping!

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 Alpha Mom paid for all the products in this review.  None of these were provided as review samples. 


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I’m Addicted to Babies http://alphamom.com/parenting/baby/addicted-to-babies/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/baby/addicted-to-babies/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:02:18 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=32027

I was never a baby person. I never cooed over babies or wanted to squeeze their soft, chunky thighs. In my twenties, I’d see someone with a baby and think to myself, “That baby stroller is in my way” and then I maneuver around it so I could get to my pedicure and a blowout on time.

Sure, I wanted a baby. Someday.  Way into the future. But at that time, I was a lot more interested in flirting with cute guys and having cocktails with friends.

But suddenly some day arrived. I had an infant. And although she was a bit high maintenance with all her crying and feeding, I really dug her. She was gorgeous and amazing and my love for her was beyond anything I could have predicted. I even learned to get a pedicure and a blowout while holding her amazing self.

But I learned something else. Babyhood is fleeting. Suddenly that little peanut turns into a toddler without much warning. The darling baby that stared at you so lovingly begins throwing food and loudly demanding just about everything. And these are kind of unreasonable demands like “find me Elmo slippers” at 2 am. And you start to think – hey this toddler sure is bossy. Maybe it’s time to have another sweet little baby! And so it goes.

My 5th and final baby just turned 10 months old. I was talking to him recently. Honestly, I was doing most of the talking but I could tell we were really connecting. I explained to him that I wasn’t ready for toddlerhood. I adore his babyhood.

But he doesn’t care at all. He just keeps growing and asserting his will.

And suddenly I found myself longing for a baby. Let me recap that for you – even though I have 5 kids and my youngest is 10 months, I am longing for a baby. It’s obviously an addiction. I don’t even want more kids. They do way too much talking. Plus I’m 100 years old and children are expensive.

I’m not the only mom who adores the baby stage. Westchester resident Daryl Woolsey has two kids, ages 5 and 7, but remembers the joy of having an infant. “They are cute and don’t sass. They depend on you 100 percent. You’re their lifeline. And there is nothing like that first smile.”

Connecticut mom Erin Butler is content with her two kids but can easily recall the magic of the first year. “I love how their tiny hands wrap around your finger like they are holding onto dear life. I love how they open their little mouths when you lean in for a kiss.”

But she too, thinks it’s over too soon. “You stumble through the newborn phase and can hardly catch your breath before they are turning one and walking and talking and you look around wondering if you missed it…even though you have the dark circles under your eyes and spit up all over your clothes to confirm you were there the whole time. It’s overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s completely magical.”

I do realize that I’m going to have to let my baby go. I will  have to watch Cash become an irrational toddler who throws himself into a weepy heap when he can’t have chips for dinner. Oh, I  will love him madly but I will miss his baby self.

Thankfully, the details of babyhood becomes a very fuzzy memory. As we get swept into school schedules, homework and big kid problems, we mostly forget about that baby smell, wispy hair and soft chunky thighs.

Oh how I will miss those thighs.

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Best Kids’ Clocks to Help Your Children Stay in Bed Longer http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/best-kids-clocks-to-stay-in-bed-longer/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/best-kids-clocks-to-stay-in-bed-longer/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 20:22:12 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=31783

When you are a new parent, you spend a bulk of your time trying to figure out how to get your kids to sleep more and stay in bed longer. Because for some reason, most young children like to start their day at the break of dawn and they aren’t very quiet about it. Thankfully for us weary parents, there are some great kids clocks available, designed to help keep your kids in their rooms longer while you catch just a few more zzz’s.

Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight

Favorite Kids Clocks: Onaroo Teach Me TimeI love the look of the Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Clock which sells for about $40. The design is very modern and simple which means  it will look nice in any room and your kids won’t suddenly outgrow it. I currently use this clock in my daughters’ room (ages 7 and 9) and it’s perfect.

To set up and learn to use this clock, you will need the directions. If you start just playing around with all the buttons in the back, you will in all likelihood make yourself completely crazy. But then again, I never claimed to be a tech genius.

Oh, and if you are over 40, good luck trying to read the buttons on the back in any kind of dim lighting. But buttons are hidden away which means little hands will not start changing the settings.

You can display the time either as an analog clock or the numeric time or both. There is an OK to Wake! feature which means the clock will go from yellow to green when it’s okay for kids to get up. (And no, you can’t set the time for 10 AM for your toddlers. 7 AM is probably more realistic.)

This is a nightlight so if you really don’t want any light in your child’s room then this might not be the clock for you. But I don’t think the light is too bright.

The clock can also be used as an alarm clock and as a simple game for teaching time to different skill levels. I really like the teach me time feature –  it’s a cute, fun way for kids to practice telling time. The only thing this clock doesn’t seem to do is make coffee for the parents in the morning.

The clock comes with three interchangeable colored bezels (blue, pink and yellow). It has its own AC power adapter and has an optional battery back-up.

Strengths: Longer shelf life because of its simple design, helps teach kids about time, lets young children know when they can get up, an alarm clock, can display the time as a clock face or the digital time, buttons are hidden away.

Weaknesses: Might need the user’s guide for some of the settings but that’s really the case for all the clocks reviewed here.

Final Word: I’m a big fan of this clock. Great design and investment.

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Onaroo OK to Wake Children’s Alarm Clock and Nightlight

clocks - onaroo ok to wake clock

Onaroo OK to Wake Children’s Alarm Clock and Nightlight is similar to the Onaroo Teach Me Time! (reviewed above). The Onaroo OK to Wake! has less bells and whistles and will cost you about $30.

This clock does not teach time or talk like the one above. But it does have the dual-color nightlight that turns green when it’s okay to wake up the parents.  It also has a nightlight (soft yellow glow) that can be turned on with a tap of one of the front toes. It will stay on for a set duration (up to two hours) but don’t think of this as a traditional nightlight that stays on all night.

The OK to Wake! also has an alarm clock with snooze feature. It has a “nap timer” which allows for napping without disrupting the alarm or nightlight settings. But in 9 years of parenting, I’ve never once wished I had a nap timer. Usually I’m tip toeing around the house trying to keep my kids asleep. And when it’s time for them to get up, I just shout, “Kid #3 wake up!” That’s my nap timer. But some parents love this feature because if a kid wakes up too early from their nap, they know it’s not time to get up yet.

This clock comes with two interchangeable colored bezels (green bug and a pink flower) which are super adorable. It runs entirely on battery power (4x AA required). There is no power adapter.

Strengths: Lets children know when they can get up, affordable, modern kid friendly design.

Weaknesses: Can’t plug it in (only battery-powered). Some parents like the lack of a cord for safety reasons but I like having the option of plugging a clock in. Also, the face on this clock is not backlit. You can’t see the time in the dark without pushing the toe to light it up. And the nightlight only stays on for a max of 2 hours.

Final Word:  This is an okay alternative to the Onaroo Teach Me Time! if you want to spend a little less money. But I strongly prefer the Teach Me Time! clock and would spend the extra 10 bucks for a much better clock. However, this might be a good fit for parents who want to keep their kid’s room very dark since the nightlight doesn’t stay on all night.

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My Tot Clock

Best Kid Clocks: My Tot ClockI have been using My Tot Clock for years and it has saved my parental sanity many times. The clock costs from $50 to $60.

This clock does a lot. The question is – do you need or want all these features? I primarily use it for teaching my kids when to go to sleep and when to wake up. The face of the clock (which is large and perfect for preschoolers) turns blue at bedtime and yellow when it’s okay to get out of bed.

The clock also plays bedtime stories, lullabies, wake music and even white noise like ocean sounds. There is also a setting for a red light that can be used for time-outs. Another feature is a green light to time activities like sitting on the potty, brushing teeth or taking turns sharing toys. In the many years that I have owned My Tot Clock, I have never used the red or the green settings (mostly because I have a watch and an iPhone and my kids don’t do time-outs in their bedrooms).

One note, you will absolutely need the user guide to get to know this clock but the buttons are nice and easy to read for eye challenged parents.

One thing I really like about My Tot Clock is that it has 5 levels of illumination and an off position so you can really control how bright it is.  It comes with the Moon & Stars faceplate (as seen in photo above) but you can order lots of fun designs like butterflies, ballet or dinosaurs for $7.95 each. It can run on batteries or be plugged in.

Even though it’s advertised as good for travel, it’s not the smallest clock to throw in your suitcase. That said, I have brought it with me on many trips because leaving it at home fills me with gripping fear that my 3-year-old twins will be up at 5 in the morning.

Strengths: Big face for toddlers, lots of different features, control the brightness of the clock.

Weaknesses: Design is only for young kids, your toddlers will absolutely mess with the buttons, more expensive.

Final Word: I feel torn because I do feel a sense of loyalty to My Tot Clock because it has served me so well but I feel like I paid for a lot of features I’ve never needed or used. If this clock appeals to you, you might want to consider purchasing <a used one to save some cash. I do think the design of this clock appeals to toddlers and this is the age group we are trying to keep from waking us in the pre-dawn hours.

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Claessens’ Kid’Sleep Moon Nightlight

Best Kids' Clocks: Claessen Bunny clockThe Claessens’ Kid’Sleep Moon Nightlight (about $50) is not just a nightlight. It’s also a clock that helps your child stay in bed in the morning.  This clock does not use color recognition but instead features a bunny that is awake or sleep. The design is very sweet and toddler friendly.

Ten minutes before bed, you press a button and the digital clock display shows a sun setting. Once the sun has set, the clock illuminates the sleeping bunny. In the morning, the moon sets over a 10 minute period and then the awake bunny lights up at the scheduled wake up time.  Kids learn that once the bunny is up, they can get up too!

There are three wakeup times – for weekday mornings, weekend mornings and naps. This clock also plays lullabies and can be used as an alarm clock The alarm has three different sounds (like chirping birds) or you can opt for no alarm. The clock plugs in and there is a battery back up.

Strengths: Very visually appealing to young children, battery backup.

Weaknesses: Limited shelf life since kids will outgrow the cute little bunny as they get older, young children can easily play with the buttons and change the settings, a bit expensive.

Final Word: The bunny is very cute and will appeal to a lot of preschoolers. And when you are trying to get kids to sleep, you may want every adorable bunny you can get on your side!

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With the exception of the Onaroo OK to Wake!, I think each of these clocks are really good options. The Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Clock is really the best deal for the money because it has a simple modern design that kids grows with kids, and they learn that green means go (as in… “you can finally go wake your sleepy parents!”).


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