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If you're looking for the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021, here's your list! I've keep it simple and practical, and organized the ideas by type. Note that not all of these gifts were just released this year. In fact, by design, I've chosen gifts that have stood the test of time. I'm not "into" trendy; I want gifts that children will appreciate for a long time to come. 

Selection Criteria

Here's how I determined the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021:

Still with me? Great. You're my people. So, on we go to the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021...

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Best Baby Gifts 2021

I recommend reading to your baby from the time they're in utero, and never stopping.  Here are some of my favorite books for babies:

silicone storage kitchen
Click to buy on Amazon - classic entertainment for baby while you work - afflinks

Guess How Much I Love You

Goodnight Moon

Why just two books? Choose any from my list below and they're also fine for baby. What matters is that you're reading. Read them anything you enjoy reading, and that's appropriate for children, so that you both grow to love the practice. It does not have to be a children's book at this age! Read them the weather forecast if it makes you happy.

Sorting and stacking toys


Nesting blocks

Puzzles for babies

puzzles for babies
Click to buy on Amazon

This classic shape sorter (or this one for travel and/or easier organization)

Or, if you want a two-for-one, I LOVE the idea of getting baby their own set of kitchen storage containers -- good for you when baby's not using them, and safe for baby to bang around and experiment with when they want to play in the kitchen. Definitely one of the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021. 

Best Gifts for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Best Gifts for Kids 2021

This is one of my favorite ages to buy for because, at this age, play is the name of the game 24x7 (no pun intended). Although these gifts are appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers, I've chosen them because, with only a couple of exceptions, my own child still plays with every single one of these. She's 8. I'd call that standing the test of time, and why these made my list of best Christmas gifts for kids 2021. 

magna tiles
Click to buy on Amazon

Ravensburger puzzles (might need some help from an adult, but this is a great age to start)

Cooperative games (we prefer these to competitive ones -- heads up, though -- probably not for toddlers, but great for preschoolers)

Train sets (great for early builders and spacial skills!)

Click to buy on Amazon

Green Toys (for the bath and for general play -- we've loved these for years)

Scooter (comes in multiple colors -- make sure you get a helmet, too, for safety)

Play kitchen 

Doll house (one of the things I love about this brand is that you have the option to buy dolls that are People of Color)

MagnaTiles (still playing with these for YEARS to come -- our whole family likes building)

Trampoline or a slide for indoors or outdoors -- GREAT ways to get those wiggles out on cold or rainy days!

Best Big Kid Gifts 2021

Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)

Although we have these on our best Christmas gifts for kids 2021 list, these, too, are timeless.

Train set (we get this one out only at Christmas and my child plays with it for HOURS every day)

book making kit
Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)


Jump rope

jump rope for kids
Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)

Book making kit (how cool is this?!)

Goodminton game (great indoors or out!)


Ride-On Go-Kart (requires balance and agility!)


Interactive Earth kit with passport (great STEM gift!)

microscope for kids
Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)


More cooperative games like this one (for older kids)

Carcassonne board game (get the version WITH the extras, because the extras cost a lot more if you buy them individually after the fact)

Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)

My Feelinks journal 

Best Christmas Gifts for Kids 2021: Children's Books

We LOVE books. I mean, we love them as in we'd marry them if we could. Books will always be on my list of best Christmas gifts for kids 2021 -- and forevermore.
Gnome from Nome, Creole, Wheedle on the Needle, or nearly anything by Stephen Cosgrove in the Serendepity series
bloom book
Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)
The Hug Who Got Stuck (we love lots of Andrew Newman's books!)
Big Brain Book
big brain book
Click to buy on Amazon (afflinks)
Bedtime Bible stories (these are VERY gentle, unlike many Bibles for kids -- and we read them all day, not just for bedtime)
The Moffats
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Pickles to Pittsburgh
Amelia Bedelia 
More book recommendations here: 

Gifts that Give Back

If I'm going to make a list of the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021, I have to include gifts that give back. These are our favorite kinds of presents, actually.

Some that we've enjoyed are calendars from the World Wildlife Fund (they give some of their proceeds back to protect animals), blankets that help provide clean water to people around the world, and soaps that support a healthy planet. 

Experience Gifts: Best Christmas Gifts for Kids 2021 

Alongside gifts that give back, we're also huge fans of experience gifts as being among the best Christmas gifts for kids 2021. Here are some we like:
So, I made this list of best Christmas gifts for kids 2021 and I checked it twice -- but I'd love to hear what else you'd add. What have your children loved? 

Gift Ideas for YOU

This is a BIG list of wonderful parenting books that I wholeheartedly recommend. Additionally, how about investing in your relationship with your kids through my short, informal, but information-packed online mini-courses

Best Christmas Gifts for Kids 2021

After-school restraint collapse is a fancy way to say after-school meltdowns. And I want you to know this: they're normal. In fact, they're downright common and can happen to all kids.

More on that in a moment. Here's what the reality feels like, though: it's messy.

You may be eagerly and happily awaiting the arrival of your child as they come home from school, anticipating they'll be full of stories and wonder -- then BOOM. It's like a tsunami rolls in your front door and you're left with the emotional aftermath (not to mention all the cleanup).

What's going on?

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What is after-school restraint collapse?

After-school restraint collapse is a meltdown that a child experiences after school, and specifically as a result of their school experience.

While the after-school restraint collapse can affect all kids, it can be more prominent in sensitive children with learning or socialization problems. Further vulnerabilities, like a lack of sleep, hunger, overstimulation, or sickness, may result in even the most even-keeled child losing control at home. (source)

Does this mean there's something wrong with your child? Are they TOO sensitive or do they have a "socialization problem?" Does it mean they hate school and you shouldn't send them back? Probably not at all. They're probably just overwhelmed and having a good old fashioned meltdown.

Having meltdowns doesn't mean children are regressing to the toddler years (unless, ahem, they're actual toddlers). It just means they're human, having big human feelings like every other person on Earth. We all get overwhelmed sometimes.

Because they're kids, though, they need some special support when they get home -- along with some specific tools to help them decompress.

What causes after-school restraint collapse?

For all children, school may or may not be a safe place emotionally. That doesn't necessarily mean that "unsafe" things are happening at school.

To the contrary, it simply means that school can be overwhelming, even for kids who absolutely love school.

However, unlike at home where children generally feel free to be themselves, school is about conformity. School is about obeying the rules; about being quiet; and not being disruptive in class. To a point, having a predictably calm learning environment is essential for learning to happen in a group setting.

As such, except at designated free times, children are generally expected to contain their energy and behave a certain way.

To be clear, I'm not dissing schools. In their defense, schools -- and teachers in particular -- are almost invariably doing the best they can with the resources they have. Still, there's a schedule to be followed. Adults often enforce certain rules with the intent of helping children learn and progress academically. Teachers simply can't slow down much when one or two (or more) children are waffling emotionally while the rest of the class is waiting. There's work to do.

What happens to all the children's pent-up energy, though? If they can't let it out through playing, roughhousing, and moving whenever and however they feel called to do, it has to go somewhere.

In many cases, children simply bottle it up and save it for when they get home.

All the happy, sad, disappointed, and excited energy has to go somewhere. It doesn't magically disintegrate when the bell rings.

School can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker with no release valve.

Kids need to decompress. Especially for the child who behaves well by the school's standards and you know is under a lot of pressure, we, as the adults, need to create a safe space for them to process what happens at school every day. If they don't decompress, it's a sure-fire recipe for upheaval.

Incidentally, these restraint collapse meltdowns differ from tantrums in some notable ways.

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How do tantrums differ from meltdowns?

A tantrum is a child's big reaction when something happens that they feel was out of their control. They have strong feelings that things should've gone their way. It's often tried to a specific frustration.

Example of a tantrum: Your child has been mentally planning for a sandwich for lunch. You serve pasta. They express their displeasure loudly, perhaps seeming to lose all sense of self-control in the interim.

A meltdown is the release of stored emotion, with or without a clear and identifiable cause. It may manifest as something that seems small to the adult, such as the color of the child's cup -- but really, it's the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It's often associated with feelings of overwhelm.

Example of a meltdown: A child sits down to start their homework. Rather than happily starting in on it, they start to yell about the homework, not wanting to feed the cat, not wanting to take a bath, etc. Suddenly it feels like everything is wrong.

Parenting is hard when you're unsure where to begin soothing the child.

As a parent and parent educator, I choose to reframe the word "meltdown" as an "emotional release." I've never liked the term "meltdown" because, for many people, it ascribes a negative connotation with completely normal behavior. It's healthy to get our feelings out. We all need effective decompression strategies that support our mental health.

For children, crying and "acting out" are often their natural ways to connect with us. If we're responsive in supporting them, it reinforces to their brains that the world is a safe place.

That doesn't mean that all behavior is acceptable; but the expression of emotions certainly is. This is part of growing their emotional regulation skills. They learn that it's safe to feel their feelings.

Here are some specific steps we can take to support our kids and help them through restraint collapse.

How to Address After-School Restraint Collapse

1. Create neutral ground & manage expectations

The only things you can predict are that your kids will

...but there's no way to know in advance what that something is. Parents often naturally assume that when their kids get home, they'll be happy. As we know, though, that's not always the case.

Sometimes it helps to have a phrase to repeat to yourself before your child comes home. For example, "I wonder what my child will be feeling today."

In doing so, you bring yourself to a place of neutrality. You remove your expectations and set the stage for holding space for whatever your child may be feeling.

2. Have consistent and planned downtime

An overwhelmed child doesn't need to be rushed to the next big event. If they enjoy extracurricular activities and events, that's wonderful -- and they still need downtime. No child needs to practice "burning the candle at both ends" before they even reach adulthood; that only leads to future burned out grown ups.

Kim John Payne, M.Ed., speaks extensively about this critical need for balanced and planned downtime, including here in this recent interview. Even the busiest and most social kids need quiet time to relax and regroup.

What does this downtime look like? For some, it's time together outside in nature, walking or riding a bike; others just need some space to be alone and process. Still others want to talk and connect with you. Of course, they may feel different emotions day-to-day and their needs for support may change.

Perhaps the most important stress-busting tool to help them deal with stress in healthy ways every single day is the next point: play.

3. Increase unstructured play time

Kids spend all day at school moving from one highly structured event to the next, save, perhaps, for recess. When we allow more of it, though, here's what happens:

"Recent research suggests that children should experience twice as much unstructured time as structured play experiences and touts the benefits of unstructured play on whole child development including fostering social competence, respect for rules, self-discipline, aggression control, problem solving skills, leadership development, conflict resolution, and playing by the rules." (source)

When children don't have enough play time, their stress levels go up. It makes them suffer not only emotionally, but also physically (source). It then takes less extra stress to push them into meltdown land, so why not lower their stress by doing that which comes most naturally to them -- more play?

4. Greet them with these three things

When your child gets home, I recommend you greet them with these three things:

  1. A smile. A smile is a natural invitation to talk. When you're available to connect in this way rather than rushing off to the next big thing, it helps kids feel seen.
  2. A hug. For many kids, a hug is positively the best way to melt off some feelings of overwhelm. Touch truly is healing; it releases oxytocin (the "love hormone") and helps kids feel better. (source)
  3. A snack. True -- you can't "feed" stress to solve it. However, learning is hard work and it burns a lot of calories. Let your child decide whether or not they're hungry, but it's a good idea to keep a nutrient-dense snack handy. (Here's support for picky eaters.)

5. Find ways to stay connected even when you're apart

For many kids, it's just plain hard to be away from you -- the person they love most in the world. Many people wrongly believe that after a certain age, separation anxiety should no longer exist.

In truth, we all miss our loved ones sometimes. Healthy separation anxiety, to some degree, should last forever. It means they care.

If separation anxiety is an issue, you can do several things to stay connected even when you're apart. Here are some starting points.

6. Let your child get it out

As Drs. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson say, "Name it to frame it." Help your child name what they're feeling. Some kids may not even realize the "energy burden" they've been shouldering all day.

Some benefit from having a calm-down corner (which is NOT a time-out), whereas others prefer to co-regulate. Follow their lead. No matter their preference, the key message you want to convey is "You and all your feelings are safe here for as long as you need to express them." Being their rock helps create and/or reinforce their secure attachment to you.

Don't take restraint collapse personally -- AND set yourself up for success

Parenting is hard enough without us having to feel responsible for our child's after-school restraint collapse. Know that you didn't cause the restraint collapse; you're their safe person with whom to express it. Figure out what you need to feel peaceful regardless of whatever emotions roll in alongside your child.

When you can be their calm and know that you're their source of security and safety, this is what matters most. You're there for them. Keep showing up, and soon enough, they'll lean more fully into the peace they call Home.

We've all been there. Our family members are disagreeing about something, and they come to us -- a neutral party -- wanting us to take sides.

At best, it's awkward. At worst, someone ends up feeling crummy and isolated.

Sometimes two children want us to take sides and resolve problems for them. Other times, the other "side" is an adult -- our co-parent. That certainly never feels good. 

When our co-parent and our child ask us to take sides during conflict, it can feel like a no-win situation. But is it?

First, know this is a very common source of parenting conflict. It's nearly inevitable; adults approach parenting situations from different perspectives and backgrounds. 


In family conflict, it may feel like a child is trying to pit one parent against the other. However, reality is that by asking us to take sides, they're trying to understand where the boundaries really are. This is healthy and normal behavior for a child.


In our case, both my husband and I are committed to positive parenting. However, the details of how we handle situations sometimes differs in practice. 

My husband is usually a gentle parent; to his credit, he's worked hard to embrace this way of living. He also happens to be human, so there's that.

Of course, I'm imperfect, too. I've made mistakes with my child and he's been witness to them. Plenty of them.

Sometimes, disagreements about parenting "in the moment" can be confusing for a child. Like many couples, we often agree conceptually about discipline and child rearing, but our implementation doesn't always match.

Still, we know it's important for our child's wellbeing that we resolve our parenting conflicts in healthy ways (source).

We work to avoid having to take sides. At the same time, we ALL sometimes need a helping hand to move past situations where we're feeling stuck.

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It's particularly tricky, of course, when one of us hasn't been privy to a dispute, and now that person is put in the middle to take sides. 

Here's real-life example of being asked to take sides...and what to do about it. 

Recently, all three of us were in our backyard. I was mowing the lawn, my husband was hanging a sun shade over our patio, and our child was playing. 

When I was done mowing, I went inside and left the two of them outdoors. When they came in, there was clearly some discord between them.

As it turns out, our child had removed her shoes in the grass and wanted my husband to bring them inside for her. 

His standpoint was, "Her shoes, her responsibility."

She decided she'd be happy to leave them in the grass and come in without them.

They both came to me, both expecting me to take sides -- even though I'd not been a part of their exchange. 

My child asked, "Mommy, you'd have gotten my shoes for me, right?" She's 7. This is a normal line of questioning for someone her age; she wasn't meaning to throw her Daddy under the proverbial bus.

My husband interjected, "They're her shoes so she needs to bring them in. We're not going to get them for her." He gave me a look that implied he didn't want me to "cave" and retrieve them.

But this wasn't my boundary. It was his. 

I didn't sign up to be put into the middle of conflict resolution. All I did was mow the lawn. I didn't want to take sides here. 

As I saw it in that moment, I had several options. I could've said:

Then, I remembered from my many years of corporate communication and negotiation work, that the best offer is often not the one that's on the table.

Who said I had to take one of THESE options, anyway? Just because my husband and daughter presented me with a couple of alternatives, didn't mean they were the only ways to handle this. I did not have to take sides.

Here's what I did, instead, to mitigate conflict over the issue, and also to model problem-solving.

Knowing that no one can easily make a good decision when they're angry (source), I told them we'd pause the conversation.

"What?!" they both inquired. They wanted resolution NOW. 

But emotional regulation needed to happen first, for both of them. I calmly explained, "I'm not comfortable being put in the middle of this disagreement. I need to make a boundary and remove myself from the discussion for awhile. I've heard both your perspectives and I'm going to think about how to handle this."

They didn't love my boundary, but they both agreed we could pause the discussion.

So, we had lunch. They calmed down.

After lunch, I validated feelings and shared my plan.

I said, "I still don't want to take sides about who should get the shoes. [Daughter], you're right. I probably would've gotten your shoes today. In our family, we help each other. So, I think it's appropriate to ask one another to get our stuff sometimes." My daughter breathed a sigh of relief. She felt validated.


Helping each other is classic role modeling. If adults say, "Your stuff isn't my responsibility," what happens when we ask our child to help us with something? It would be hypocritical for us to expect that they would. This isn't a one-way street.

Modeling helpfulness and responsibility happens in big and little ways, every single day. And modeling behavior is the surest predictor of what kind of person our child will become.

Some would argue that this approach fosters entitlement in children. I disagree. If we model helpfulness, we should watch for the ways they begin contributing to the family naturally. One of my upcoming courses will go into this in more depth.


I quickly added, "At the same time, we also need to take good care of our belongings and we want to make sure everyone does their share. So, I can see the importance of bringing in our own shoes sometimes." My husband exhaled. He felt validated.

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From there, I turned to one of my favorite and time-trusted resources: playful parenting.

Playful parenting was the next most logical step, and it didn't require that I take sides.

This wasn't me against my husband our our child. It was us against a problem: her shoes were still outside.

I first asked if they'd be willing to make a game of problem solving. They both agreed. (Consensus is important.)


Once they were both outside, I said they'd have exactly 60 seconds to find a missing pair of shoes. However, they both had to do it with only ONE eye open -- and they must hop on one foot to get there.

I counted to three and off they went.

Of course they both knew where the shoes were. They were right where they'd left them.

Of course we knew my child would be the one to "win" -- that was the point. And naturally, she was perfectly cognizant of the fact that she was retrieving her own shoes after all. She didn't miss the lesson here.

In the context of play, and being emotionally regulated, she was happy to do the work of retrieving her shoes.

The difference was that we spoke her language; the language of play.


I didn't have to take sides. What I had to do instead was to approach the problem from a different perspective. 


Does play always work when people want you to take sides?

Nope. It doesn't always work. There's no magical bandage that solves all problems.

You'll be surprised how many it does solve, however. All the better if we can use it proactively, before the need to take sides ever arises.

It's the perfect starting point to avoid unnecessary conflict.

And to be clear, was my way the "best" way? I don't know. I do see my husband's perspective about learning responsibility. I'm trusting that she IS learning, and my way isn't the only way she'll do that.

What I do know is this: we solved the problem, everyone felt validated, and we turned the mood around for the better.

It felt good to me to not have to take sides. I, too, felt validated in my boundary and am glad I didn't have to mediate a win/lose situation, when a win/win was possible. 

The positive approach is always worth a try -- and you might just avoid having to take sides altogether. Some problems just work themselves out when we allow for creative solutions.

This is all part of parenting, one missing shoe at a time.

Afflinks. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Natural or DIY-project advent calendar.

Family bonding is a wonderful thing under normal circumstances. Spending time together with family is simply irreplaceable; it's how we make memories that our children will carry warmly for many years to come. Be it family game nights, Sunday night dinners, or just "Tuesday mornings with Dad," -- things your kids can count on -- they all can be a magical part of the familial bond.

These weeks are hard, though. We're out of our comfort zone. This isn't just quality time; it's quantity time. A whole lot of it. As much as we hate to admit it, we can do only so many things together before we crave a little peace and quiet. It's human nature. And there's no shame in feeling that way -- science says silence helps us regenerate our brain cells.

How can you enjoy family bonding when it starts to feel like family bondage—and it feels like too much of a good thing?

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1. Be fully present in whatever your family members are doing together for 10 minutes at a time.

Sometimes, when we spend time with others but wish we were doing something else, we can start to feel

kids bike
Available in many colors and multiple sizes. (afflink)

resentful. It’s tempting to mentally check out, disappear into our phones, or get plain ol’ grouchy. When we're in it for the long haul, though, it's helpful to tell ourselves, "I can do this for 10 minutes."

Perhaps it's playing someone else's favorite game (the one that's the bane of our existence); perhaps it's doing something else that we find slightly less than enjoyable. Whatever it is, if you know you're allowing yourself a stretch break / coffee break / mental break in just 10 minutes, you can probably power through it and stay engaged. You might even enjoy it more knowing there’s an end point. Oftentimes, you can check back in with yourself and ask, "Can I do this for 10 more minutes now that I made it through the first 10?" Some of the best parenting is done in 10-minute increments. You've got this.

2. Change your "have to" to "get to."

A great, hands-on way to understand math concepts. (afflink)

Family bonding time doesn't mean you "have to spend time with family;" it means you "get to" do it. Remembering those who can't is both humbling and sobering. Perspective is a gift. You get to spend time together. We're doing what we're doing right now because a lot of other people no longer get the opportunity to be together.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, "Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind." Before we know it, these days will merely be shadows, as well.

3. Find family bonding activities that everyone enjoys -- or a fair trading system.

Family bonding activities can be as simple as looking through an old family photo album together, sitting down

aerogarden indoor garden
Works great as a seed starter or permanent indoor garden. (afflink)

together with some good books, or starting a makeshift band in your living room. It doesn't have to involve anything that would "look good" on social media.

If the activities your five-year-old enjoys don't match those that your 12-year-old would choose, develop a rotation system. (Yes, you get to be a part of it, too.) All family members get to contribute ideas. Putting the ideas into a jar and randomly drawing the "winner" is a great way to keep it fair.

Spending time together like this, even a LOT of it, can be a wonderful gift for the whole family.

One day, we will look back at this season -- and we will have an emotional memory of how we spent it with our children. Things may not be picture perfect in the world right now (or even close to it), but we have the power to make peace with what we have. We can be available and vulnerable and emotionally present with our families---for our partners, for our children, and for ourselves. This bonding time might just have the potential to be the most healing thing we've ever done together.


This article was originally published here.

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

A few years ago, my then-almost-six-year-old daughter and I found ourselves unexpectedly discussing white privilege and racism while driving from North Carolina to Alabama. Rather, I drove and she "navigated" by telling me to turn left every 90 seconds or so. We'd still be driving in a big square if it were up to her.

As it turns out, my Google Maps app wasn't a whole lot more help than she was (and I give her more credit for trying). Even though I had the "highway" setting enabled, it insisted that I drive only on side roads. Given that I lack the ability to tell one Great Smokey Mountain from another, I had little choice but to continue down our slow, two-lane route.

It was a nice opportunity to breathe and to absorb the beauty surrounding us.

Besides, we got to see some things we'd have otherwise missed had we been on the highway: the Cat Museum, for one, and a roadside store entirely dedicated to "Hot Boiled Peanuts." (We didn't stop.)

Along with those things, we also saw a whole lot of confederate flags. After seeing enough of flags to pique her interest, my child asked what they were for.

I could've simply responded that people were using them to decorate their houses. That would be true. However, this was an opportunity to talk about another one of life's "big issues." She's going to hear about the "big issues" of racism and white privilege at some point, regardless.

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I'd much rather she hear about racism and white privilege from me than from friends at school. Or worse, from someone who either doesn't know what's appropriate for her age, or someone whose views don't align with those that we're trying to instill.

i walk with vanessa
Wonderful book about supporting those who look different from us. (afflink)

Using age-appropriate terms, I briefed her on the Civil War and what the two sides believed. I referenced one of her favorite picture books, I Walk With Vanessa, to help her connect the dots. (In the book, a little girl who's new to a school is bullied by a boy of a different race. Fortunately, it has a happy ending of inclusion and acceptance. More than anything, it's a children's book about the power of kindness. It has no words whatsoever; the "reader" can use the appropriate narrative for his or her child---and that's one of the reasons I recommend it.) 

Going on, I reminded my daughter that some people still wrongly believe that skin color is related to how important they are. Wanting to leave her feeling hopeful about the future (as I am), I spoke to her about people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others throughout our continued history, who've peacefully fought for equal rights.

That entire conversation lasted only a few minutes. I answered her questions. Then, days passed without further discussion about racism or white privilege.

Then, life presented us with a natural opportunity to discuss white privilege.

Dexter Parsonage Museum

We hadn't planned to spend any time in Alabama besides flying back home from one of its airports. However, our flight was cancelled due to weather, so we ended up with a few unexpectedly free hours in Montgomery, the state's capitol.

We parked near the first confederate White House and decided to walk the half mile to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s house (otherwise known as the Dexter Parsonage Museum), where we'd go inside and learn more about him and his important work.

Surprisingly, even though it was late afternoon on a beautiful day, the downtown Montgomery streets were completely empty. No one was outside. It was kind of weird.

We passed an alley, and out of seemingly nowhere, a black man who appeared to be homeless, appeared right behind us. The feeling of someone being so close, no matter who he was, initially startled me. I turned and nodded, "Hello." He replied warmly, "Hello."

To be clear, I don't advocate talking to strangers if your "spidey senses" warn you not to.

Intuition is there for a reason. Trust it. In this case, however, my intuition told me we had absolutely nothing to fear (I've written before about how we've addressed homelessness). Besides, we were already there and so was he, so why not keep it positive? I realized my daughter was closely observing how I'd handle this stranger's

mary jackson human computer
Read books about people of color and make them a comfortable presence in your home. (afflink)


The man, who quickly proved to be kind and helpful, confirmed we were, indeed, walking the right direction towards our destination. He walked alongside us for about two blocks, making conversation and briefing us on this fascinating history of slavery in Montgomery. Then, as quickly as he'd appeared, he veered off. He offered in his most polite southern drawl, "Y'all be blessed."

I felt that we had been.

Because we live in a large and diverse city, we have opportunities like this on a regular basis. The timing of this one, however, felt poignant because of where we were, what we'd recently discussed, and where we were going.

"Talking the talk" with kids about racism and white privilege means also "walking the walk."

Study and discuss the history of racism and white privilege at an age-appropriate level. Start young, while kids are still forming their opinions about the world. Read books that include people of color. Widen your social circle, if necessary. Point out what we need to do to stop racism and white privilege. And then, when the opportunity presents itself (as it undoubtedly will), let your response to others be your child's best teacher.

Most of all, let the conversations flow organically. They will come up quite naturally throughout our lives; we just need to be observant and brave enough to help our children understand the narrative that accompanies them. Our words matter. The stories we tell today help them form the impressions with which they grow up -- and their tolerance for how other people address them, too. Help them be change makers for the better.

So, what's the one easy way to talk with kids about racism and white privilege?

Go there. Talk about it. Be the one who's willing to be uncomfortable (if you are). It's through discomfort that we grow. Be the one to normalize it as part of our children's consciousness. They're always paying attention.

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

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Great for ages 3 - 10. Maximum weight per seat is 100 pounds.

balance bike
Balance bike available in many colors. Great for learning to ride!

sprinkler for kids
Warm weather fun at home!

Play clothes: a different perspective. One day last summer, I sat with my child atop a very tall climbing structure at a playground in France. Another family walked into the park, their daughter dressed in the most beautiful white dress--full of frills and lace and all things dainty. That little girl proceeded to plop right down in the sand and start digging. These were clearly her play clothes (and not caring one bit about how others defined them). Then, she started rolling around with her brother. She laughed. She was happy, moving freely and joyfully.

From my bird's eye view, I thought about how if you walk through any children's clothing store, you're likely to see it divided into two sections. I’m not talking about the “boys” and “girls” sections, although those exist, too. (That said, you’re just as likely to see my daughter checking out dinosaur shirts as frilly dresses, thank you very much.) More specifically, I’m talking about play clothes versus so-called fancy clothes.

For children, all clothes are play clothes.

kids bike
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The little girl at the playground wasn't wearing costume dress-up clothes. Her dress was legitimately nice. She looked like she might've been the flower girl at a wedding only moments earlier. Her mom, sitting nearby, didn't bat an eye. She didn't tell her daughter to be careful, or beware of the mud, or stay out of the dirt. She just let her play.

It was a beautiful parenting moment to observe. The girl played freely and with reckless abandon in her dainty white dress.

I imagined the self-love and acceptance this approach would foster if kids were allowed to worry less about things that don’t matter to them.

play clothes

What are play clothes, anyway?

They're the lower price tags versus the higher ones. The ones built to stretch and reach versus the ones built to put our children on the covers of magazines. The thing is, our kids are going to outgrow the ones marketed for "everyday wear" just as quickly as they outgrow every single other item of clothing that we've purchased or

Indoor or outdoor fun!

have been gifted.

Wisdom tells adults that we shouldn't save the fancy silverware for special occasions, but instead, to use it daily because every day is special. I'd like us to extend this gift to enjoy the "fancy things" now to children, too. There's really no sense in wearing something only once (or not at all) just because someone has said it's too nice for the occasion. A fresh snow or rainfall, or a new pile of leaves, are very much worth celebrating.

Isn't play the very best occasion for a child?

Sure, if the clothing needs to stay particularly clean for a special event, have them wear it there first. And then,

wonder woman costume
There's never a bad day to dress up.

relax about it. At least for me, when I look through my child's boxes of clothes that no longer fit her, the nostalgia doesn't come when I look at the so-called fancy stuff. The items I hold most dear are the ones we got dirty; the ones I thought I wouldn't miss if something happened to them. They now represent the times we played together.

Thanks to the little girl in France who reminded me of this. The very best perspective to consider when it comes to play, of course, is the child's perspective.

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

It’s fairly easy to be down these days. We wake up to news of the coronavirus and wonder if that’s going to get us, or perhaps it’ll be another mass shooting. We might also be trying to raise a family and keep our proverbial chin up, despite not knowing where the cap of the toothpaste wandered off to or whether we’ll have tonight’s soccer game with rain in the forecast. Somehow, despite of all of this, we’re looking for hope. We want to trust tomorrow will be better. Easier. Lighter.

I'd love to say there's a quick fix for this. For most of us, however, instantaneous enlightenment is something we imagine happens only at million-dollar yoga retreats for other people. I've never personally mastered the warrior pose while overlooking the sunset with amplified serenity.

Still, many of us are looking for hope. Normal people like you and me. Some of us find it through God. Some look elsewhere.

I'd like to suggest that hope is all around us, not exclusive to the sunset poses.

Hope comes in the form of the guy who owns the local bike repair shop who hears about

looking for hope
Journaling can be helpful when we're processing the events around us. Afflink. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Your purchases help us support important charities.

my friend's stolen bike. He decides to gift a new (used) bike to her. He asks nothing in return; in fact, he looks down and mutters, "Don't mention it. I'm glad to do it."

Hope comes in the form of the woman who answers the phone when I want to place my take-out order. She

calls me "honey" and "sweetheart" and "darling" in a way that seems not at all inappropriate; she sounds just like my Grandma did back when I could call her on the phone. There's a familiar love there in this stranger's voice.

Hope comes in the form of my child, who's sometimes averse to initiating physical affection, but surprises me with a two-arm hug around my waist while I'm putting away the dishes. She holds on as if she's been wanting to do it for a long time; she melts into it. I melt into her.

You see, I've experienced all of these things this week. In real life. They all count for something, don't they?

Perhaps when we're looking for hope, we need to look differently. As it turns out, in a million tiny ways, hope is all around us. And maybe, just maybe, we’re called to be part of someone else’s hope, too.

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Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

Social distancing isn't anything anyone really wants to do, particularly those of us who have kids in the house. We're all used to being active and out places. For right now, though, the centers for disease control are advising that we steer clear of public activities until the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) runs its course (here's what parents should know about it). It's important not only for our own health, but arguably more so, that we do our part to keep those with compromised immune systems safe.

This isn't about us. It's about doing the right thing for those who are counting on us.

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Here are a few ways you can practice social distancing while still maintaining a sense of normalcy in your life.

If you're in an area where schools and / or businesses have temporarily closed, don't worry too much about your child's schooling. Think of it as an opportunity to "unschool" for awhile; give kids a break unless they're really struggling with a topic that you want to keep top of mind. If you need to work from home, know that there are many online homeschool options at your disposal. Interest-based learning, where the child chooses what to learn, can be a gift when kids feel cooped up. It helps keep them engaged.

Support local businesses however you can. Many small businesses will suffer significant financial loss from this pandemic. While local delivery options are still available to us (and with hopes that they will remain so), please choose small businesses in lieu of big box corporations that are likely to survive the financial repercussions of social distancing.

If you absolutely must go shopping (for food or essential supplies) in public, consider offering to shop for someone who might be at risk. Do you have a neighbor or friend whose health might be compromised?

This is a stressful time. All sorts of studies show that when we serve others, we’re happier. When you do something to brighten someone else's day, it's a win/win.

25 ways you can practice social distancing with kids at home (and how you can still get out sometimes).

Fortunately, there are still plenty of outdoor activities that don't require contact with people outside your family. They also don't require going anywhere where we'd be tempted to touch things (we're steering clear of playgrounds).

social distancing

Here are a few outdoor activities we've enjoyed this week or have planned:

  1. Go for a bike ride.
  2. Take a walk.
  3. Make chalk art on our driveway and sidewalk.
  4. Go "hunting" for mushrooms and draw pictures of what we find.
  5. Go on a photo safari through our neighborhood.
  6. Make a homemade scavenger hunt.
  7. Make cards for your neighbors and leave them somewhere they're unlikely to have touched (you can use a stick to put in in their mailbox if need be). If you see them, wave at them. Someone suggested we bring back the bow and curtsey -- I kind of love that idea.
  8. Collect acorns.
  9. Dig for fossils in our yard.
  10. Start a rock collection.
  11. Go on a picnic.
  12. Start a garden.
  13. Weed. (What child doesn't love being trusted with a spade and gardening gloves?)

Here are our indoor social distancing activities:

  1. Paint the acorns we've collected and make a homemade game of checkers.
  2. Rearrange the living room furniture to make a gymnastics arena.
  3. Hold a family dance party.
  4. Bake our favorite allergy-friendly (or "regular version") zucchini bread recipe.
  5. Read our beloved books (afflink). Better than buying them, max out your library card and read them online!
  6. Mend all the socks. (Yes, we really did. Again, what child doesn't love being trusted with a needle, scissors, and thread?)
  7. Write stories together.
  8. Tell stories together. One of our favorite games is where each family member adds one sentence or one small section of a story then hands the story off to the next person to continue telling it. It gets very entertaining and everyone stays engaged in the activity!
  9. Make music with whatever we've got!
  10. Make artwork together.
  11. Enjoy completely child-led play. Follow their lead. It's simply lovely to see where they take us in their imagination.
  12. Watch a special movie or show together.

Social distancing with kids isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but it's a small sacrifice to make for control and prevention for those around us. We all want to be part of the solution so we can get back to life as usual.

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

Growing up, I always wanted a white Christmas--there was just something magical about waking up to a blanket of snow on that special day. It was the perfect day to stay inside with all the physical and emotional warmth Christmas offered before diving into the snow and playing outside. I still hope for a white Christmas, but these days, what’s even more important to me is a green one. By a green Christmas, I don’t mean I want to see the grass instead of the snow. Instead, I mean I want one that’s still as heartwarming as those from years gone by, but a much more sustainable version of that with which I was raised. 

After all, conscious parenting and the need for sustainability apply all year ‘round, including during the holidays. Raffi’s Child Honouring course includes a full section about sustainability for those who want to learn more. 

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With that in mind, here are eight great tips to help you have a green Christmas.

1. If you’re going to get a tree, get a real one.

With 8m real trees in the process of being purchased this Christmas, the idea of saving one from the axe might be prompting the move to fake ones this year in the belief that they are more environmentally friendly.

But environmentalists and energy analysts would disagree. Take one

BONUS IDEA: If you're willing to forgo gifts this year, please consider donating what you would've spent to reputable charities who support people in need.

 key product detail of these thousands of artificial trees – they are made of plastic. It is the manufacture of the plastic tree,

from oil, which creates most of its carbon footprint; around two thirds, according to Dr John Kazer of the Carbon Trust. Another quarter is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree is made. They are also often shipped long distances before arriving in the shop and then your home.

A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill and more than 10 times that of a real tree which is burnt...” (Source)

2. Send electronic cards instead of paper ones.

I confess that I love touching paper. Books, cards, you name it; paper is practically my love language. However, as much as I love cards, they're just not worth their negative impact on sustainability. 

The average letter has a carbon footprint of about 29 grams of CO2. The carbon footprint of a normal email footprint is much less, about 4 grams of CO2. (Source)

With just a couple of exceptions, we'll be sending e-cards this year. 

If the idea of not sending paper cards troubles you, you can take small steps. Strike 20 names from your list. If you can’t do that, try 10. Start somewhere. 

You might also like: Teaching Kids How to Protect the Earth and

The Best (Greener) Stocking Stuffers for Kids and Kids at Heart

3. Trade gifts for experiences.

As conscious as we are about sustainability the rest of the year, it’s really tempting to continue habits we’ve held onto since we were kids. Part of that, of course, is gift giving. To be clear, I’m not saying don’t give gifts. It makes sense, however, to consider the planet and our impact when we’re thinking about how to put a smile on a loved one's face.

green christmas
Recycled golf balls make a great (and green!) token gift to represent the experience gift that's coming. They're also great on their own!

Here are a few green Christmas "experience gifts" that people in our family have loved:

Sure, it’s fun to have something to touch; something to open. If that's important to you, there are ways to accomplish this while keeping the gifts themselves to a minimum. For example, buy a package of recycled golf balls to represent the gift to Dad and Granddad (afflinks). Choose a pretty frame for a homemade drawing from your child, or a family photo, for Mom and Grandma to represent the art you’ll see together at the museum. Find a really sweet stuffed animal for your child to represent the sanctuary. 

Moreover, for whatever you do choose to purchase, buy locally whenever you can. This can make a big and positive impact on your carbon footprint.

4. Reuse wrapping paper or gift bags (or skip them!). 

green christmas
Reusable gift bags available in lots of colors and sizes.

My great grandmother was infamous for urging us not to rip the paper every Christmas morning. Now that I’m older and understand better, she was really onto something! We are reusing previous years' paper for as many years as we can make it stretch before it nearly falls to bits in our recycling bin. And once it’s gone, we aren’t replacing it. In the meantime, it still looks just as pretty as it ever did under the lights of the tree.

We also have plenty of reusable gift bags to last us many years. These work for birthdays and other celebrations, too! It's not just about having a green Christmas; sustainability works all year 'round.

green christmas
Find gifts that get your kids outside, that are good for their bodies, and that will last for years.

5. Skip bows and ribbons entirely.

We have a few large red bows (which we've given the moniker “tarantula bows” because they've existed in our family for generations and are mangled enough to show it). They look pretty terrible, but they’re actually kind of hilarious that way. We’ve all come to love them and dive to protect them if someone is handling them too roughly. Aside from these, though---which we can place strategically on top of whatever's most visible under the tree---we don't need any other ribbons or bows. Let your kids decorate the wrapping paper with markers. It's more fun, anyway, and it's a great way to involve them.

6. Ditch plastic for sustainable gifts.

Choose more sustainable products instead of conventionally manufactured ones. Gifts made of natural and renewable materials are best by far. Many are specifically marked for sustainability. If you shop locally, make sure to ask your merchants for the sources of their products.

green christmas
A play house for years of fun.

7. Get a bigger bang for your buck.

Just the other day, my six-year-old said to me out of the blue, “Do you remember that year I got my jungle gym for Christmas? It was so big — I didn’t even think there could be a present under blankets like that!”

That Christmas was three years ago, and it stuck with her half her life. Rather than lots of little presents (which, as much as we hate to admit it, might not be entirely memorable), consider a single big gift that will last for years. That's a much more sustainable option. We've never regretted having done this when we could. Similar fun and big ideas to the jungle gym would be a bike, a play house or a trampoline.

green christmas
Bikes last for years and are better for the planet. A great way to get your kids off to a healthy and sustainable start!

Buy fewer gifts; make them count.

8. Adjust your holiday meal.

For those of us who have a history of having more leftovers than we can freeze / turn into soup / repurpose into another meal somehow, consider revising the meal plan. Many grocery stores will sell partial portions of their "big serving" options if you simply ask. Downsize the meal plan to fit your family. No need to buy more than you need just because it's Christmas.

If you do end up buying more than you need, find a place to donate your excess. There are many hungry people at Christmastime and throughout the year.

A green Christmas is one focused on sustainability.

More importantly, however, it's one that focuses on the true spirit of the season.

I'm fully aware that I'm writing this from a place of privilege compared to most of the world. Find a way to help others. For a bonus idea, if you're willing to forgo gifts this year and have the option financially, please consider donating what you would've spent to reputable charities who support people in need. Discuss it with your family. Make a difference not only this time of year, but whenever you can.

I'm sending you and yours all the love in the world. Happy holidays to you and yours!

Vacation activities and sightseeing with kids!

Last week in our travel series, our travel experts wrote about choosing accommodations. There's nothing like knowing where your home base is to provide some comfort before you explore the area!

When you're on a family vacation, though--be it spring break, summer vacation, or anytime at all--it's important to plan vacation activities ahead of time. That said, I've always said that on vacation, I like to go where the wind blows me. That's my way of saying I love sightseeing without a plan. Alas, now as a mama, experience tells me it's sometimes better to have an idea of what we'll do before we go.

Let's see what all of our travel experts have to say this week.

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Dandelion Seeds

My best advice is to incorporate some memorable, fun, and unusual-for-you modes of transportation into your sightseeing activities. Preview the area you're visiting online, including mapping distances, then decide who in your family can walk, light rail, bike, or tuk-tuk to whatever sights you're prioritizing. If your kiddos are little, they might get a thrill from an open-family vacationair bus tour, and you'll see places where you want to return and spend more time. The internet is great, but there's just no way to replace getting the lay of the land with your own eyes.

One of my favorite vacation activities of all time was a horseback ride through the rainforest of Costa Rica, surrounded by howler monkeys, before swimming in a waterfall-fed pond. Getting there was (more than) half the fun. Make the journey part of your sightseeing adventure. What a wonderful way to make sightseeing memories! Check out our must-have travel items for kids of all ages, too.

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from World for a Girl

"Travelling with babies, toddlers and young children means very slow travel for us. Sight-seeing is spread out and copious amounts of time are spent in play parks and soft plays around the world. We try to factor in outdoor activities every day whether it's beach time or a short hike. Making sure that the children get plenty of time to run around, be wild and have fun is an absolute Vacation Activitiespriority.

When it comes to family-friendly cultural experiences, it's all about ancient ruins and history museums for us...From the Acropolis in Athens with a baby to visiting the temples in Bagan, Myanmar with kids we've had nothing but amazing experiences visiting historic ruins. When they were younger, we carried the kids around sites in baby slings but now they run around pretending to be explorers. Likewise...we've had the pleasure of visiting some amazingly child-friendly museums worldwide. For example, visiting South Korea with kids, we found that almost every museum has a superb interactive children's museum attached. A brilliant way of combining sightseeing with play."

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Tips from a Typical Mom

"Activities and sightseeing on a family vacation are very important to us...We love to be outdoors so we look for a place with a lot of hiking, camping, swimming or historical sites to see. I start by finding the website for the Vacation activitiesdestination we are going to and seeing what the locals recommend. We plan our itinerary around these activities starting with the most active activity since the kids have been sitting in a car or airplane for so long. Next, we look for deals online from websites like Groupon. There is even sometimes a "City Pass" type of card that you can purchase for each family member that gets you into the most popular places..."

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Mommy and Me Travels

"...I’m sharing my top 3 lessons I’ve learned over the last several years traveling with small children.

  1. Be flexible. Traveling with a baby/toddler means a lot of unplanned activities and stops. It's nice to sit and enjoy the scenery, smell the roses, or chase a bird ;). Welcome these breaks instead of worrying about staying on a schedule.
  2. Ensure that throughout the events of that day you include fun kid activities. Most museums and architectural places will not keep a kids attention for very long. Plan fun things to do in-between the museum and old church, even if it is just a short stop at the local playground so that they can burn some energy.
  3. If traveling in and around Europe, invest in a great umbrella stroller. European attractions and activities (like taking a metro) are usually much more compact than we are accustom to in the USA..."

More ideas at https://mommyandmetravels.com.

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Captivating Compass

Excitement = Museums X Coffee 2 - That was our travel formula before we had teenagers. It was perfect for our little crew. It's my number one sightseeing and activity planning tip. We’d take in a museum in the morning when we were fresh, stop for a spot of lunch near somewhere that had a place to let the kids get rid of some energy while the parents grabbed a coffee (double shot, of Vacation activitiescourse). Then, it was onto the next exciting activity.

We found that our kids regularly needed a time to just play - at a park, in the water, along a hiking path or out in a grassy field. Museums are fantastic! Art, history and science are all incredibly inspiring, but don’t forget to sprinkle in a bit of free play to let their little brains organize and process all that information. Now that we have teenagers, we still follow this sightseeing and activity formula. It’s worked for so many years, it's now a comforting routine for all of us."

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Grab My Passport

"...Here are our top three tips:

Once we've narrowed down our wish list, we plan out each day, leaving room for relaxing, snack times, and free time to just play around. We try to plan out restaurants too, to make sure we won't need reservations and that they are kid-friendly!" - Read more at www.grabmypassport.com

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Gofamgo

"Fear of Missing Out or FOMO is real. It’s a common mistake to condense everything into how long the trip is. You're already there, might as well do it, right?

Try to not be tempted to overachieve. Enjoy and relax. Don’t drive yourself nuts as I did when we went to Walt Disney World for the first time. Have time for rest and cool spots...

Doing nothing should be in your itinerary. Take this time to rehydrate, rest your aching feet from walking, or talk to your family and reflect on what you just saw and experience." - Read about their rookie mistakes here.

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from World Wise Kid

"...From our experience, giving yourself lots of time, being prepared and staying flexible are key to creating great memories.

Time. Allow yourself the opportunity to ease into a place...We find that discovering sights and wildlife on our own is so much more memorable than taking an expensive tour and having someone else show us and tell us about a new place. Often tours go too fast and don’t allow time to just wander.vacation activities

Being prepared. We try to do background research as a family before getting to our destination to know about the history, culture, wildlife, language and people. A story helps the kids connect to sights. Maps are fantastic visuals.

Be flexible and forgiving. Most important is balancing the kids’ and adults’ needs. Check in with everyone and learn how to compromise. Don’t be too attached to an idea of what the experience should be. You might not have time to see it all but you have an introduction to the place and can plan to return someday!"

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from Disabled Disney

"...We make a list of priorities that are important that we get to experience. Everyone gets to pick 1 thing that is we absolutely have to do. That way everyone gets a say in how the vacation goes. We also look at accessibility for my wheelchair. I normally Google the location to see what is interesting around the destination and also look for tours..."

Sightseeing and vacation activities with kids: ideas from State By State

"...being that we are very budget conscious, we try to participate in family-friendly, inexpensive activities that we all will enjoy. This often includes hiking and playgrounds, but can also be visiting museums and historical sites too. Having an ASTC membership has saved us tons of money and allowed us to visit some incredible museums across the country, for free. If you don't have one of these ASTC memberships, but you enjoy visiting museums when you travel, I highly recommend getting one.

...By waiting until October to visit San Diego for instance, we were able to save a ton of money because kids go free the whole month. So instead of just being able to buy tickets to Legoland, we were able to visit several attractions." - More at https://statebystate.net/6-tips-to-save-money-while-traveling-america-with-kids/

Come back next week for packing tips from our travel experts!

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