Category Archives: Product Review

Summertime Must-Haves for Little Ones

[Note:  This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children.   Along with being a great writer, she always has excellent recommendations for toys, books, and local explorations for little ones. See more of them here, here, and here.]

 

Summertime and the livin’s eas…ier. This weekend marks the official start of summer, and pandemic-era parents rejoice as the season brings infinitely more room to roam and water to splash in. But the muggy, buggy DC area climate can quickly damper even your greatest plans if you are not well-equipped.

Whether you are bringing your little ones to the local zoo and animal parks, the area’s best playgrounds and splash pads, your community pool, or the Maryland and Delaware beaches, it’s time to make sure your bases are covered with some summer staples.

I almost always venture out solo with my four- and two-year-olds sans stroller (read: no storage space). Given this, my summer must-have list for little ones must be edited. These are my “deserted island items” — the essentials for summer survival!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooler Backpack

I recently invested in some better warm-weather equipment for my role as “snack lady.” I replaced the traditional diaper bag with a backpack that was entirely insulated, because what else is even in there besides food? This small one fit the bill perfectly, and here’s a similar style with more pockets. I love this larger sized one too.

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Thermos Water Bottles

While we’re talking food and insulation, these thermos bottles are hands-down my favorite. The stainless steel is safer and cooler in the sun, and impossibly, ours still look like new after four months of use. There are lots of fun colors and character designs to choose from.

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Sunscreen (+Bug Spray)

The trick is finding one that little ones will let you near them with — because hell hath no fury like a child resisting sunscreen! A few ideas: 1) find one with appealing branding like this, 2) find one that includes insect repellent like this to kill two birds with one stone. Also consider a separate, no-tears option for the face.

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Compact Portable Potty

Admittedly, I haven’t purchased one—yet. But I have had to borrow one from a friend twice in the past month. I’m generally that parent finding the nearest bush for my child to pee behind, but sometimes nature is less squat-friendly. These potties are incredibly compact, and perfect for the more discerning parent and child.

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Water Shoes

The shoe of the season! Natives are the gold standard, but there are other more budget-friendly options like this and this that are suitable for all-purpose play. Crocs (and similar styles) are even better for quick on and off during backyard play.

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Strategic Swimwear

Kids bathing suits are not all created equal. For girls, nothing beats a two-piece suit like this or this for potty time and quick changes. For boys that aren’t potty trained, this one is a recent find and new favorite (similar to baby swim diaper suits you may be familiar with). Top it all off with towels that double as cover-ups.

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Sun Hats

Like sunscreen, the key is finding one that your little ones won’t resist with all their might. These bucket hats set the record for longest amount of time on my kids’ heads during a recent beach trip. They are breathable, secured with drawstrings, and come in a variety of colors and sizes.

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Portable Fans

Kids can go from playing contently one minute to unbearably hot the next. Portable fans come in hand-held designs like this and this that will appeal to little ones, and I’ve seen this one on many must-have lists for new moms. Added perk: fans are one of the best mosquito repellents.

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Buckets & Shovels

A good ol’ pail and shovel can get you far. On a recent beach trip, we brought everything—you name it, we had it. My little ones used small-sized shovels for 99% of our beach time. A set like this or this one (with collapsible buckets!) is perfect for the minimalist beach-goer.

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What’s on your summer must-have list? Tell us in the comments below!

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Filed under DC, Product, Product Review, Shop, Summer

Creating a Perfect Outdoor Set Up for the Covid Winter

 

Patio hangs around the firepit give the Covid winter spirits a boost

 

This post is a bit of a detour from the usual KFDC content, but in this continuing weird time of navigating life during a pandemic, I think (hope!) it’ll be helpful.  Covid, generally, has changed the way we hang out with company at our homes. And the Covid winter has made it even trickier.  Many of us have been enjoying backyard or front porch hangs with friends (and our own fams, of course) for awhile; when it was warmer last summer and fall, it was easy to do.  But the cold season requires some extra planning — and purchases —  to make those outdoor gatherings doable (read: comfortable and fun ).   We’re finally getting our back patio together after it was inaccessible for a long time due to home renovations (more on that in later post), so this is all fresh for us.  Luckily, we got to hang in friends’ backyards for awhile to get ideas for a perfect Covid winter set-up — and here’s what we’ve found are must-haves.  Happy Wintering!

 

Outdoor Furniture

You probably already have furniture for your patio or backyard.  But if not, and if you’re going for cozy, I recommend including an outdoor sofa or sectional. It’s nice for lounging, curling up with a blanket, and snuggling with the kids.  We have an older model of this Ikea sectional.  It’s pretty comfortable, and a great thing about it is that you can add pieces to expand it on ether side.  You can also set them up separately for more socially distanced hangs.  The newest version also has storage, with the seat bottoms lifting up. Other stores to check:  Wayfair, Pottery Barn, World Market, and Target.

 

Smokeless Fire Pit

The Solo Stove is, hands down, one of our best purchases this winter.  It really makes a difference in the enjoyment of hanging around a firepit.  Not only does it get really warm and give off good heat because of the innovative design, there’s no smoke blowing on one person (who always seemed to be me), and clothes and hair don’t smell like a campfire afterwards.  Definitely worth it!  Another smokeless firepit option is this Blue Sky that uses pellets.  Friends have and love it, and  I also like how it looks.

 

Night Lights

The right lighting can really make a difference in the vibe outside.  Twinkling lanterns and string lights can be fun and festive, but also kind of magical.  If, like us, you don’t have handy outlets, opt for solar powered lights.   And for lanterns, don’t forget hooks to hang them on the fence or other spots.

 

Warm, Comfy Blankets

Some nights you may need a little extra warmth along with the fire, not to mention blankets add snuggly coziness to a winter space.  I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods just buying a soccer ball recently when I saw they were having a great sale on blankets — buy one get two free — so I came home with bags full of them!  That particular deal is over, but you can still get BOGO, and I can assure you the fleece and velour throws are soft, warm, and so nice to have on hand.

 

Portable Projector

A great way for kids to enjoy a fun activity with friends is with an outdoor movie night. A portable projector makes that possible, and it’s not too pricey when you consider what you’re not paying for movie tickets right now. We bought this one as a Christmas present for Sasha a couple of years ago, and there is a wide selection of newer models now. (Of course, you can use them for family movie nights, too!)

 

Projector Screen


Complete the outdoor movie set-up with a projector screen. They come in a variety of sizes as well as a couple of types. Opt for a foldable portable screen that you can easily put up on a fence or wall and take down. We went with a retractable screen that is mounted to a wall with these brackets. It stays outside, but rolls up when we’re not using it.

 

Furniture Cover


If you have cushioned seating outside, I strongly recommend one of these covers. We actually just replaced all of our cushions and cushion covers because our old ones were trashed from exposure since we got lazy about bringing them inside. With this cover, we just move one piece of the sectional to the middle, and put it over everything, blankets included. The whole set stays clean, dry, and ready for sitting.  The cover comes in a variety of sizes.

 

Side Tables


With the Solo Stove taking up the middle space, side tables will be needed for setting down drinks and food. World Market has some good options, and Wayfair has a nice selection, too.

 

Trays


Have a couple of acrylic serving trays to bring everything outside. It’s also good to keep on the sofa for setting down food and drinks for anyone who can’t easily access a side table.

 

Cozy Footwear


I very strongly recommend Uggs or another shearling-lined boot for outdoor hangs during winter — keeping those tootsies warm makes a huge difference in comfort. I have and love these — easy to slip on and can be worn with skinny, cropped, and straight leg jeans.  I wear mine all the time, well beyond the back patio. For a cheaper option, Koolabura by Uggs is about half the price. I bought these for Sasha, and honestly cannot tell the difference and will probably buy them for myself next time. Target also has a cute budget option.

 

*Are there any must-have items for a Covid winter outdoor set-up that I missed?  If so, please share in the comments!

 

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Outdoor, Product Review, Seasonal, Shop, Social Distancing, Virginia, Winter

Guest Post & Giveaway! Toy Recs by Age from Red Jellies Founder, Kimberly Stephens

[Note: This is a guest post written by Kimberly Stephens, founder of Red Jellies, a fully independent review service that helps you discover the very best books and toys on the market.]

Everyone wants to give thoughtful children’s gifts, but many of us don’t have time to spend wading through product reviews or shuffling their kids through the mall.

That’s where Red Jellies comes in! We provide truly independent, easily accessible advice on knockout children’s items based on our rigorous product research and testing.

Our mission is to help you find quality gifts without spending a gazillion hours typing “best toys for X-year-olds” in Internet search engines or losing hours of time reading online product reviews. We scour the market so you don’t have to.

To get you started, we selected a few of our very favorite toys by age. For even more gift ideas sorted by age, category, or product type, check out the Red Jellies website.

All kinds of easels, reviewed!

Best Toys for New Babies
Teddy Bear
Gund
MSRP: $25
Why We Love It: Ultra soft, super cute, 18-inch teddy bear. This Gund plush makes for an adorable nursery decoration and eventual first lovey.

Pirate Rattle & Teething Set
Yookidoo
MSRP: $16.95
Why We Love It: With a crinkly pirate’s hat, interesting stripe pattern, and (pleasantly!) musical parrot, this rattle and teething set is stimulating and engaging.

Interactive Books
Varied
Why We Love It: High contrast books like My Dreams stimulate infants. I-spy and cause-and effect books like Each Peach Pear Plum and Touch the Brightest Star engage older babies and toddlers. Also recommended: Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?, I Kissed the Baby!, and That’s Not My Duck.

Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds
Spinagain
Fat Brain Toys
MSRP: $29.95
Why We Love It: This crowd-pleasing stacking toy helps develop eye-hand coordination. The fast spin is an extra (mesmerizing) bonus!

Baby Stella
Manhattan Toy Co.
MSRP: $20
Why We Love It: 15-inch, super soft doll with embroidered features, removable clothes and diaper, and a magnetized pacifier. Perfect first doll.

Ultimate Alphabet Train
vTech
MSRP: Around $50
Why We Love It: Great for riding or pushing, this colorful toy train is perfect for little ones one the verge of walking. Includes alphabet blocks, a walkie-talkie, and a storybook that teaches singalong songs.

Best Toys for 2-Year-Olds
Wooden Farm Magnets
Djeco
MSRP: Around $24
Why We Love It: Adorable magnets spark creative play and develop gross motor skills as little ones move them around to create farm scenes. Highly durable.

Tea Set
Green Toys
MSRP: $29.99
Why We Love It: Durable, lightweight tea set for four encourages pretend play. Made from recycled materials. Dishwasher safe.

Camper Van Playset
Indigo Jamm
MSRP: $50
Why We Love It: Camper van, interior table, and detachable surfboard offer a variety of pretend play possibilities. Four peg figures and a dog. Pricey but high quality.

Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Day at the Beach
Build & Imagine
MSRP: $39.99
Why We Love It: Awesome building and pretend play combo. Use illustrated magnetic pieces to design the surf shop and cafe. Comes with two characters and 42 magnetized accessories.

Mini Deluxe Scooter
Micro
MSRP: $89.99
Why We Love It: Let’s get moving! Littles steer this well-made scooter by leaning in the direction they want to go. Smooth ride. Adjustable T-bar height. Develops balance and coordination.

Fire Chief Costume
Melissa & Doug
MSRP: $29.99
Why We Love It: Cute costume inspires independent and cooperative play. Well-made, durable, and machine washable.

Best Toys for 4-Year-Olds
Color-a-Cape
Great Pretenders
MSRP: $21.99
Why We Love It: A great art project that leads to dramatic play.

Castle Logix
Smart Games
MSRP: $26.99
Why We Love It: A beautiful 3D wooden puzzle that promotes problem solving and spatial reasoning. With 48 challenges of varying difficulty, it continues to engage kids as they grow.

Hisss
Gamewright
MSRP: $13.99
Why We Love It: Draw cards and match colors to complete the most snakes. Boosts matching, spatial logic, and turn-taking. Great first game.

Best Toys for 5-Year-Olds
Quadrella Xcellerator
Hape
MSRP: $149.99
Why We Love It: Different colored blocks have different functions, encouraging spatial reasoning and logic as little engineers construct marble runs. Includes model design suggestions.

Gobblet Gobblers
Blue Orange Games
MSRP: $24.99
Why We Love It: A twist on the classic tic-tac-toe game: larger pieces can “gobble” smaller ones! Builds memory and strategic thinking. Quick play.

Fossil Hunter Lottie
Arklu
MSRP: $24.95
Why We Love It: Calling all paleontologists! This high quality doll is ready for the dig. Small size convenient for travel. Bonus that Lottie looks like a kid (no makeup, jewelry, or high heels).

Best Toys for 6-Year-Olds
Go Go Gelato
Blue Orange Games
MSRP: $19.99
Why We Love It: Little shop owners must plan ahead to match their customers’ gelato orders by passing scoops between cones. Great beginning logic game with sweet components.

Rollerblades
Phoenix
MSRP: $64.99
Why We Love It: High quality inline skates for youth rollerbladers. Adjustable length allows skate to grow with your little one’s feet.

Fort Building Kit
Fort Magic
MSRP: $129.99
Why We Love It: Little adventurers build the forts they’ve always imagined with this high quality kit. Excellent for planning and motor skills. Note: Fabric not included. Use blankets or sheets.

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Giveaway: For a chance to win your choice of one toy from a selection provided by Red Jellies, simply leave a comment below telling me what item tops your child’s holiday gift wish list. (Easels, marble runs, math games, and more are among the selection from which the winner can choose for a prize that’s age appropriate for their child.) Get an extra chance to win by entering on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page, too! This giveaway will run through December, 17, 2017, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

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Filed under 2017, Chanukah, Christmas, Giveaway, Guest Post, Holidays, Product, Product Review, Professional Service, Shop

Giveaway! Celebrate Valentine’s Day Family-Style with Whole Foods Market

wfm_vday_cheers

Who says Valentine’s Day has to be a couples-only holiday? Not me! Celebrating with the people — big and little — I love most is what makes it special in my book. In fact, I never really made much of the day until I had kids and thought it would be sweet to mark the occasion with them. Along with enjoying Valentine’s-inspired activities around the area, we usually exchange homemade cards and enjoy some treats.

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This year, however, we had an early family celebration with the help of Whole Foods Market and some great offers they have for the holiday. Rib-eye steaks and lobster tails are on sale along with beautiful flowers, bubbly, chocolates, and lots of other Whole Foods items to make for a festive — and delicious — feast.

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wfm_vday_surfturf

Our family-style “Valentine’s Day” dinner included the surf & turf, a nice bottle of De ChancenyCremant de Loire Brut for Levi and me (sparkling water for the kids), a pepperoni pizza with the topping shaped like a heart, and a salad to get our veggies. We all savored some of everything, and had plenty of leftovers to enjoy later, too.

wfm_vday_chocolates

We ended the meal on a sweet note — Lake Champlain chocolates in cute heart shaped boxes that made nice little gifts for Owen and Sasha. And a gorgeous bouquet of roses is a present for all of us that we can continue to enjoy beyond our lovely, little celebration.

Ready to get your Valentine’s Day celebration started? Go to SHOP.WFM.COM to do some pre-shopping!

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Giveaway: Want to try some of these Whole Foods Market specials – on them? You have a chance to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift Card! Enter on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page – simply like the post and leave a comment. The giveaway will run through February 14, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Whole Foods Market, however, I only promote places programs, and services that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Giveaway, Holidays, Maryland, Product Review, Shop, Sponsored Post, Virginia