As a daycare, homeschool and mom to 6, I've learned a lot about what toys and crafts are worth buying, and which are not. I often get asked which are my favorites, so here are just a few of our family favorites (including a few of my mom favorites and family devotional ideas!) that would be great for both Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers:
Kids Crafting Supplies:
Kwik Stix: These are AMAZING and dry in seconds making "painting easy and fun for all ages! I use these weekly with my daycare kids.
Wikki Stix: Re-usable and great for learning! It allows kids to use their imagination and practice fine motor skills!
Crayola Washable Window Markers: All my kids love these, and the best part, they are WASHABLE!
Crayola Color Bath Dropz: Makes bath time a little more fun! They can mix colors to learn how to make other colors.
Crayola Bathtub Crayons: No worries, they wash off tub walls super easy and make bath time even longer (for all my mamas that need a quiet moment!)
Crayola Scented Markers: My kids are obsessed with these because of the fun scents when coloring. They would make for a great stocking stuffer!
Crayola Metallic Markers: These are so cool! I have even loved coloring with them and the colors show up so pretty!
Crayola Emoji Stamp/ Marker Maker: All my kids (ages 4-11) loved this so we ended up buying another pack. It is a great activity that teaches them colors and ratios.
Melisa & Doug Scratch Art: Can you tell my kids love art? This is an easy art activity that allows them to be creative with drawing and the colors are fun! All my kids love scratch art but this is especially great for littles!
Top Kids Games:
Blokus: This has become a family favorite this past year! Even our 6 year old can beat us at this one!
Spot it: This game is great to take on the go, keep in the car or pack in a bag! It's a fun one for siblings to play together without adult help;)
Rack-O: I grew up playing this game with my grandma, and now my kids love it as much as I did growing up!
Guess Who: A classic game that helps with memory and recognition.
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game: My daycare toddlers love this game!!
Hoot Owl Hoot: All the games by this company are AMAZING!
Sequence for Kids: My younger school age kids love this game!
Race to the Treasure: Great pre-school game!
Feed the Woozle: Perfect for pre-school and kindergarten age kids!
Yeti in my Spaghetti: This has been a favorite this past year and doesn't require much set up!
Ticket to Ride (for kids): Great strategy for elementary age kids.
Catan Junior: Great strategy for elementary age kids and they feel like the grow ups playing Catan!
Electronic Battleship: I love that my older boys can play this on their own!
MORE EDUCATIONAL GAMES ARE BELOW!
Educational & Learning Gifts:
Melissa and Doug Alphabet Puzzles: This has helped my kids with learning their letters and associating them with words.
Melissa and Doug See & Spell wooden spelling boards: This makes learning to spell fun for pre-school and kindergarten age children.
Boogie Board Play & Trace: This has helped my littles learn to write, draw, trace, and work on fine motor skills. They also have stencils that go along with it!
Zingo Sight words: Want to make sight words fun? This is it?
Zingo Time Telling Game: This has helped my sons with learning time on different clocks.
Sequence Letters game: Perfect for learning letters and making it fun!
Sequence States & Capitals: Great for learning states and capitals. Even better for this Classical Conversations Homeschool mom!
Mad Libs: Any and all of these are great! My elementary boys love them and they make for a great stocking stuffer.
Melissa and Doug Play Money: It looks real and comes in a case. It has helped my boys with money skills.
Step 2 Easel with Letters & Numbers: My kids love this for EVERYTHING crafty, so much so, that I let it stay out in my kitchen!
Wooden Easel: Another great option for an easel. I love that this one has the roll of paper!
Kidz Labs: ALL of them! One of our boys loves anything science or engineering related so we have gotten SO many of these. He has loved every single one. A few options: Robots, Science Kit, Crystal Mining, Robotic Hand, Solar Rover Kit, Volcano Making and Tin Can Robot.
Write & Re-use Labels: I use these for baby bottles and water bottles for everyone in my family!
Silicone Placemat/Plate: No more plates of food on the floor, AMAZING!
Robeez Boots & Shoes (all kinds): These shoes and boots actually stay on!
Tommee Tippee Bibs: These bibs stay on and wash off under water!
Wooden Beads Pacifier Clips: We have loved these for Attwood. They are neutral, fun for him to chew on and easy to clean.
Huschh White Noise Sound Machine: We have this attached to our carseat and it's the best for white noise. It has great volume control and can we charged with a USB. LOVE it!
KicKee Pants Swaddle Blankets: The softest and stretchiest blankets ever!
Ergo Baby Carrier: My favorite heavy duty baby carrier.
Beco Ring Sling Baby Carrier: My ALL time favorite carrier that is lightweight and easy to take on the go!
Sit-me-up Floor Seat: We loved how supportive and safe this baby seat was, how it was collapsible and easy to take on the go!
DockATot Deluxe: I never thought I would love this so much, but we did. We were able to use my sisters and Attwood has always slept amazing in it.
Boon Frog: Perfect for holding bath toys and allowing them to drain and air out.
For Kids of all Ages:
Sonicare Toothbrushes for kids: Bluetooth allows the toothbrush to sync to an app that educates and gets kids excited about brushing. They get exciting rewards for successful brushing sessions!
Mark my Time Bookmark with Light: This has helped my kids want to spend more time reading and makes it fun! A great stocking stuffer idea!
Step 2 Roller Coaster: Toddlers and elementary kids love this! It lasts for YEARS!
Fischer Price Code and Learn Code-a-Pillar: My toddlers and big boys love this and it allows them to learn coding and patterns.
Zoob Builders: My kids spend hours building with these and they are great for little hands. Easy to snap together and take a part.
Magna-Tiles: I don't know anyone that doesn't love these! They provide HOURS of play time and are super educational!
Imaginext Toys (all of them): These are HANDS DOWN my boys' favorite toys for the last 7 years. We have a TON of them! They are durable and last forever.
KNEX: My older boys love building with these! If you have a creative child, these are great!
BeyBlade Battle set: Our boys, ages 4-11, are really into these! This is the one Christmas gift that we got them last year that they are still playing with this year. That's always a win!
Legos: Always a classic and great for independent play! Every child needs legos!
L.O.L. Surprise: Don't ask my why, but my 6 year old daughter LOVES these!
Shopkins: My 6 year old daughter loves all things Shopkins, so you can't go wrong with any of them!
Hatchimals Mystery: This has been the craze for my daughter and her friends this last year!
Hatchimals Egg Carton: Another fun and smaller option!
JoJo Bows: Big bows are a thing for girls this year!
Devotionals for the Whole Family:
Long Story Short: For the WHOLE family to read together.
Raising a Young Modern Day Princess
Brave Girls, Beautiful You
Brave Girls Devotionals
Brave Girls Bible Stories
Raising a Modern Day Knight: for Fathers as they raise up sons in the Lord.
Gotta Have God: Fun devotions for boys ages 2-5
Adventure Bible Book
One Year Book of Devotions for Boys
God's Amazing Creatures and Me
One Year Devotions for Active Boys:
Philips Sonicare Toothbrush: They really work better;)
Bath Bombs: Every mom needs time to relax. My daughter loves these too!
Contigo Auto-seal Chill Stainless Steel water bottle: (Keeps water cool all day long!)
Instant Pot: You won't regret it!
Shark Vacuum: May possibly be the best gift I have gotten ever. I'm serious, I LOVE it. Every mom needs one.
Rack to hold my Essential Oils: It's made for nail polish but holds oil bottles and keeps them organized and easy to see.
Spice rack/drawers: I love how I can see all my spices easily and it takes up less space!
Mom's Manager Calendar: How I run my life with 6 kids, seriously!
CC Hat: I wear this ALL the time!
Hunter Boots: These are perfect for living in the midwest and I wear them weekly!
Large Micro-Cooker: I use this all the time to steam veggies.
Norwex Body Pack: I use these to remove my makeup with just water.
BeachBody on Demand Fitness Programs: What I use DAILY to stay on track with my health and fitness!
Inspire Bible: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bible!!!!
Mother & Son, the Respect Effect Book: For all BOY moms, this will change your life and relationship with your boys!
100 Days to Brave: Amazing devotional on how to discover how to be brave
It's All Under Control: I have LOVD this book. I'm a "control" person and it's helped me to understand that I need to surrender my control to God. It also have a GREAT 6-week study that I would recommend doing alongside it: It's All Under Control 6-Week study.
Streams in the Desert: A morning and evening devotional
Hello Mornings: Establishing a Morning Routine
The Husband Project: A great read to re-ignite the spark in your marriage!
Love & Respect: Our all-time favorite book on marriage.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions on any of the products, just ask!
Any time I can have breakfast ready before the kids wake up is a WIN in my book. Even better, is when I can have it ready the night before. So one thing we love to do before bedtime is make muffins. Daeston oftentimes is my "helper" and cleans off all the utensils for me when I'm done with them. He's too cute to say no to, and I love that he loves spending time with me baking. This is one recipe that we all love, but I love that it's made with honey instead of sugar! They stay moist for days, although they usually don't last that long in our house!
Healthy Homemade Blueberry Muffins
With Full Hands and an Open Heart- Kansas
The hands and feet of Jesus. That is what this wonderful couple was to us. Dave and Kristy not only opened up their home TWICE to us, but they loved us through the the thick and thin of both our adoptions. They held us when we needed to be held, gave us a shoulder to cry on, fed us, played with our kids and took us on several adventures in the area. They became our family and saying goodbye to them was hard, especially not knowing when we would be back.
When I say that adoption is for everyone, I mean that. Does that mean everyone should adopt? No, but everyone can do SOMETHING to support those that are. We never once went through the adoption process alone, there were always those praying us through, supporting us financially, helping us physically, and blessing us in ways we could have never imagine. I could give you countless names. Still today, it's overwhelming and humbling to think about. So my prayer for YOU is, if you ever have an opportunity to be a part of an adoption process (big or small), just know that you are making a difference in the life of a child. YOU ARE their voice and your piece in the story is just one way you can serve and be Christ in that moment. That is what being a part of the body of Christ looks like, that is being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Almost two weeks after arriving in North Carolina, our family of 6 was heading home. It was bittersweet, but we were ready to start our new reality! I will forever be grateful for Dave, Kristy, and all those that shared our adoption journey with us. This is not just our story, it's yours too.
The call. We had been in Charlotte, NC for 10 days and were anxiously waiting for "the call" saying that we could take our baby boy home.
Since usually it's REALLY cold back home in South Dakota, we wanted to take full advantage of warm weather and get outside as much as possible with our kids. This happened to be an extra special day, as it was also Danny's birthday. He told me that his birthday wish was getting the call. Well, his wish came true! As the kids were running around playing, Daeston and I were basking in the sun. I remember actually whispering to Daeston at one point saying "don't get too used to this!" His little life in the south was going to change in NO time and he would have to adjust to colder winter months😉
I'll never forget when Danny took the call and I saw his smile. It was an AMAZING feeling to know we could finally go HOME and we couldn't wait to tell the other kids.
God was So good and yet I had so many feelings rushing through my mind. Is it okay to take this child away from where he was born? Away from his birth family? Would we ever be able to speak with them or meet them? How is life going to be at home adjusting with a newborn again? Do we really have to leave and go back to reality? When will I ever see Jerik again? Yes, knowing that we were leaving NC, I still had a heavy heart knowing we would be leaving Jerik yet again. Will Daeston bond with us the same way Coyer did when we adopted him?
Through all these thoughts, fears, and questions, Philippians 4:6 kept running through my mind, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." So as a family we did just that, knowing that God's plan for our family was just beginning to unfold.
We knew our time in NC was coming to end and it would be ANY day that we would get the call of clearance to take our baby boy home across state lines. I could NOT wait for my family and friends back home to finally meet Daeston instead of having to facetime and skype. Let's be real, what mom doesn't love to show off their newborn baby?!
Honestly, I was not ready to go home and face reality. I was enjoying the little "mini-vacation" with just our family. I loved that we didn't have to have a care in the world, other than having fun together and we were having TONS of that! Some of my favorite moments were our nights spent at our host home, cooking supper, playing, going on walks, snuggling, reading, giving bathes and taking turns holding Daeston. I can't tell you how many times I looked at him and thought "is he actually mine, forever?" I knew the reality wouldn't set in until we boarded the plane home. The moment I dreaded SO much last time was going to be replaced with excitement as we went home as a family of 6.
To this day, it's one of the best experiences we've ever shared as a family. I am SO thankful we decided to take our kids and let them experience this time with us, there is NOTHING that could replace that. When Danny and I decided we wanted to adopt again, we knew that we wanted our kids to be involved as much as possible. We wanted to go through the entire process, the ups and the downs, as a family so our kids would understand how God worked through it all. We knew it would help Coyer understand a little bit more about his story too! I can't begin tell you how much it has taught our kids. So if you ever adopt and ask me if your kids should could along with you, my answer would probably be yes 😉
The next hour was a BLUR. It was filled with questions, hard conversation, answers, tears, but most of all, JOY. Never did I think I would be able to experience JOY in that moment, but I did, it was an answer to prayer. Being able to see all my children in one spot and have them meet, it was surreal. God knew what He was doing and conversation with Shinara was better than I could have ever imagined.
I know a lot of people questioned her, were angry with her, and just didn't get it. To be honest, I had moments of this too, but at the end of the day I knew she was brought into my life for a reason and I loved her. She was the mother of our son, regardless if he was living with our family or not. He would always be our son and I wanted the best for not only him, but her. We needed this moment together, we needed to heal. Never will I forgot the look in her eyes as she apologized to us. She was sincere and in that moment, I forgave her for all the hurt she put us through.
Having Daeston in my arms was a secure feeling, as we sat and talked. It was as if God was of saying. “I had a plan, I am faithful, and he is yours." Nothing will ever change the way I feel about Jerik or his mom Shinara, and NOTHING will ever change the way I feel about Daeston. He is son, and was always meant to be. He is our "joy" after our "mourning."
Before it came time for us to go, we were able to get some pictures together. My absolute favorite picture was the one that Shinara took of Danny and I with our five children. Regardless of where Jerik lives, he will always be part of our family and our story. To this day, we still keep in touch with them, send pictures, and talk. I look forward to the day when we can be in the same room again because I know God is at work and has an amazing plan.
I never thought this day would come. When we lost Jerik, I cried for weeks thinking I would never see him again. I struggled with moving on and had to force myself to find joy in the every day moments. When we got the call for Deaston, it was VERY clear that God was at work. Jerik was from the Charlotte, NC area and when we left, I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart there. Never did I think that my future son would also come from this area too. It was like God knew exactly what we needed. Before we left SD to adopt Daeston, I prayed that God would give us the opportunity to see Jerik again. I know that sounds crazy, but I believed that God was working in ways we could not imagine.
You see, Daeston would never replace Jerik, and I was not looking for that. I was overwhelmed with love for our new son, but that didn't mean I still didn't love Jerik or his birth mom. They were forever our family and knowing that we were going to be in the same area as where they lived, gave me hope that we would be able to see them. Over the last month since saying goodbye to Jerik, Shinara and I kept in touch by texting. So after being in NC for over a week as a family, I asked her if she would be interested in seeing us. I asked if we could see Jerik again and if our kids could meet him. (Most people probably thought we were crazy, but honestly, we didn't care.)
I believed whole-heartedly that God had a plan through it all and our story with Jerik was unfinished. Thankfully, Shinara said "yes," and we made plans to meet them at a local mall park so the kids could play and we could talk. I'll never forget the moment when she walked up and we embraced without words. Really, it was all God. Never did I think I would be able to face her without hard feelings after all the pain she put us through, but there was something unspoken that was even stronger. It was LOVE. Regardless of what she put us through, I had this immense love for her, and I still do.
A trip is not complete without Chuck E. Cheese, right? Ugh, as much as I hate this place, our kids love it. Our friends knew that too and they surprised us with a gift-card to Chuck E. Cheese. Our kids were in HEAVEN and it's always worth it when we see their smiles. Are there any other parents out there that feel the same way? Seriously, we couldn't complain though because it was free food and HOURS of entertainment. Kedren had to experience everything with Daeston and take him on every little ride that he could. Danny was lucky and got to join in too, can you see his excitement? 😉
This was just another example of the love we were shown through this adoption process. We had countless friends and family bless us with financial assistance, gift cards, gifts, prayers, notes, and help when we returned home. God provided in the BIG and SMALL ways and our hearts were filled with gratitude. We always say that "Adoption is for everyone!" There is always something you can do to bless others going through the process even if you're not adopting yourself!
One of the things our kids loved about North Carolina, was all the different parks. We asked our host family to recommend different locations to us, and had fun checking out the different areas. The great thing about our kids being so young was that they were easily entertained and the free parks were perfect!
After spending a week at our host family's house we decided to give them a small break from our family. They weren't used to having a house full of kids, so we booked a room at a local hotel. We also wanted to surprise our kids by letting them go swimming. We knew that swimming would allow them to burn lots of energy and we would all sleep good! Seriously, how cute are they all in their swimming suits?! I just couldn't wait to get Daeston in some tiny trunks like his big brothers. While Danny went swimming with the older three kiddos, Daeston and I snuggled and took lots of pictures.
I wanted to capture every moment of happiness that I could and I'm so glad I did. We still look at all these pictures and recall all the fun memories we had. It's so fun to be able to show Daeston these pictures too and for him to learn about his story through his siblings! If I can recommend ANYTHING to families adopting it would be, DOCUMENT IT ALL. Pictures are a wonderful tool to share the adoption journey not only for our adopted children but also family and friends.
We had been told about the "Lazy 5 Ranch" from our social worker and she said that we HAD to take our kids. OH MY GOODNESS, BEST DECISION EVER! To this day, I don't think we ever laughed so hard or had so much fun as a family. Our kids LOVED it! Who am I kidding, WE loved it!
We drove through the park going 5mph feeding ostriches, donkeys, zebras, and giraffes from the window of our vehicle. We thought they would gently eat from the buckets of food, but we were wrong! Honestly, we would go back in a heart beat. Our hope is to travel back there in a few years and re-live our fun memories all over again with our family!
After feeding the animals we walked through a garden area, had a picnic, and saw some wild birds. We decided because we had so much fun, we would drive through the animal park one more time just to hear the giggles of our kids. If you are EVER near Charlotte, NC, you HAVE to go!
This was the exact reason why we wanted to take our kids durning this adoption process. They are still talking about our time there and it makes us SO thankful that God provided for our whole family to be able to go. Because of the love of our family and friends, we were able to raise enough money to go as a family and no "thank you" will ever be enough. God is SO good and His presence was with us every step of the way. The JOY we had as a family on this day was the perfect medicine for my mama heart.
Hi, I'm Kansas! I wish we could be doing this face to face over coffee. Maybe someday, till then this will have to do!