Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 perfect presents make gift-giving easy

(BPT) - The holidays are a special time of year to show the important people in our lives how much we appreciate them -- and that means gift-giving. If picking out holiday gifts is painless for you, you're one of the lucky ones. More often than not, people have a tough time finding the perfect present for friends and family, particularly if you have someone on your list who already seems to have everything. So, if you're stumped as to what to get that impossible-to-buy-for person, consider these five gift ideas that are sure to brighten anyone's holiday:

1. Gift your services

Rather than giving a tangible item, give your services; it's the perfectly practical gift for the person on your list who may be short on space, lacking financial resources or would just appreciate a little extra help. Love kids? Offer free child care so the recipient can enjoy an evening out on the town without worrying about the little ones. Have a knack for cooking? Gift a weeknight meal that you deliver to the recipient's doorstep. Known for your organization? Offer your skills to help the recipient organize a closet, office or other cluttered space.

2. Make a miracle happen

Positively impacting others by giving a charitable gift in the recipient's name embraces the true meaning of the season. The new Give Miracles Holiday Catalog from national nonprofit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals features in-demand pediatric items and services that local children's hospitals need — anything from comforting teddy bears ($30) to a case of extra-small preemie diapers smaller than the palm of your hand ($170)! For high-impact gifts like a physical therapy toy kit ($375) or a pediatric wheelchair ($970), funds can be collectively raised by numerous gift-givers. This option is ideal for extended families looking to do something more meaningful than the typical gift exchange.

And to make that "do-good" feeling for the recipient last long after the holidays are over, Give Miracles donors receive ongoing communication from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals throughout the year about how their gift is making an impact at their local hospital. Browse the gift catalog at

3. Purchase a membership to a monthly club

Rather than wasting money on a new gadget that will quickly be forgotten, give a gift that benefits the recipient all year long. Monthly clubs provide fun deliveries to a loved one's address, an ongoing reminder of your generosity. Monthly gift clubs are available for just about anything, from wine and beer, to jams and cheese, to bacon and fruit.

4. Give a gift that grows

Potted plants are a fantastic gift idea because they represent how your love continues to grow for that special someone. Plus, plants are a wonderful addition to interior decor and help clean the air. With so many houseplants readily available, you're sure to find the perfect one for the person who has everything. Does he gravitate toward decor with vivid color? Choose a flowering plant that provides delightful blooms. Does she love Asian culture? How about gifting a bonsai tree or a bamboo plant?

5. Provide an experience

Often, it's not what's in the box, it's the memory that stays with so many people after the holidays have passed. That's why giving a special experience can make a truly meaningful gift. Think about what really interests the recipient or an activity they've had on their bucket list. Perhaps it's a hot air balloon ride or a white water rafting daytrip. If the person really loves to shop, hire a personal shopper for the day and let them see what it's like to live like a star. If the recipient loves gourmet food, purchase a spot in a class taught by your town's hottest chef.

Any one of these ideas is sure to show that hard-to-shop-for person on your list that you've put some real thought into their gift. And ultimately, isn't it the thought that counts?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Building isn't just for boys: Getting girls engaged in constructive playtime

 (BPT) - How many times have you walked into your child's classroom only to see the boys and girls separated into two different groups, playing with completely different toys? The boys are likely huddled around the building blocks, creating skyscrapers and forts, while the girls are busy painting and coloring.

Sure, you can chalk it up to society's gender expectations to explain this play divide but does it mean girls have no interest in construction play at all? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. In fact, girls have just as much to gain from building as boys and equally enjoy playing with construction toys. Toy companies that specialize in designing building toys, like Mega Bloks, have long researched the patterns of construction play among girls, specifically, and understand its long-term benefits. Parents of girls, furthermore, should ensure their daughters are getting this valuable playtime with building toys.

From developing language skills to boosting a sense of achievement, construction play serves as a stepping-stone for a young child's intellectual future. "Playing with building toys provides children an ideal way to engage in discovery-based learning," says Dr. Maureen O'Brien, developmental psychologist and child play expert. "It is through this type of learning that children are able to build their confidence through trial and error and develop a sense of achievement, enabling them to physically link their world to the play world, building their brains in the process."

The learning benefits of block play are further enhanced when layered with open-ended, imaginative play, such as make-believe with dolls. Children begin to understand their world and give it perspective by playing with toys that enhance exploration through customization and storytelling. This combination of block play and role play is a boost to your child's development. -

Understanding that girls love and benefit from creative construction as much as boys do, O'Brien has some tips on incorporating building play as a regular activity for your daughter:

*Make construction playtime a group activity - Given the opportunity to build, girls equally excel at the building process and generate the same levels of satisfaction as boys. By making construction playtime a group activity, girls are also able to spend more time collaborating with one another over a building project. By assisting, affirming and supporting each other, girls are strengthening their interpersonal relationships. They are also developing their imaginations and resilience through conversations and collaborations during the process of their building project.

*Emphasize storytelling - Girls love the storytelling aspect of playtime. It allows them to create and express themselves in a fun environment where the possibilities are endless. By connecting a story to their creation, children learn and understand problem solving skills, language development and the elements of decision making - all important next steps in the learning process. Construction toys designed specifically for girls can help them tell their story, like the new Mega Bloks Barbie line. For example, the Mega Bloks Barbie Build n' Style Luxury Mansion is the perfect balance of building and playing. It allows girls to build, design and re-design, decorate, accessorize, dress-up and style Barbie doll's home in any way they want.

*Incorporate familiar characters girls love - A way to familiarize girls with construction play is with characters they already know and love. For example, the Mega Bloks Barbie construction line features mini figures and iconic Barbie details that appeal to girls. When girls recognize characters, they will likely be more inclined to try something new.-

*Join and guide the fun - Playing with your daughter during building time increases her chances of learning from the activity. Even when parents and children sit and walk through building instructions together, the children are exposed to the problem solving skills needed to assemble the construction set. In addition, by building together, parents are exposing kids to innovative new ways of thinking, sparking creativity and showing a new way to understand the activity.

O'Brien encourages parents to break through the traditional playtime expectations to instill life-long benefits of construction play - especially for girls. The cognitive, spatial and interpersonal skills they will acquire through a simple shift in their play routine can expose them to numerous future opportunities.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Computer Rules for My Kids, Plus Educational Links

So I've been quite stressed with the way my kids are using the computer. I hate it when they play games where they are just senselessly banging on the keyboard to get a character to shoot, kick, punch and do whatever fantastic kung-fu like moves. Or they go on YouTube to watch cartoons. I just get so irritated because to me its like wasting time. Plus, with my younger boy (now 5 years old), it has become an addiction. The first thing he says to me in the morning is... "mommy, can I?" That's his famous line when he wants permission to get on the computer. And when I reply that he has to read a book or do some writing first, his whole face changes like someone just died and then the tantrum starts: crying and kicking.

I also get very ticked off when I see one kid watching his/her sibling playing games on the computer. It's like the eyes are permanently glued to the screen whether or not it is their turn to play. And the worst is when they start whining about how someone else got more computer time or is on the computer too long and they start to fight and bicker over it.


However, I understand that in this day and age, computers are in their very fibers. So, I decided to revamp my computer rules in the hope that the time they spend on the computer, is a more fruitful one.

So, these are my rules, clearly written on a whiteboard hanging in my living room.

If you can't really see it, this is what it says:
  • You can ONLY use the computer if/when you are given an assignment to do or if you've earned a special privilege. 
  • Work/Study before using the computer (They have assigned house chores, plus some homeschooling).
  • Unauthorized websites = banned for 1 week.
  • No watching others play computer.
  • Sign-up sheet (So there is no more quarreling on who gets to play. They now have to book their time).
  • 1 1/2 hours only (Yes, still have time as to how long they can use the computer).
  • Whining, complaining, fighting = No access to computer for 1 day.
So, each week now, I will browse around for appropriate games and activities. I email each of them this "authorized" list of webpages. Even though it takes a bit of my time to do this, things have been better. My kids have been very good now to stray from the list too.

Here is the list for this week. I'll try to share my list here every week. Maybe, you'll find this useful.
* This list is for my kids aged 5 -11 years old. 

 You'll have to check yourself to see if the games match your child's skill level.

Do you have problems with your kid's computer habits?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Save 50% on Comics

Kobo is having a fantastic deal on comics. It is ending really fast - midnight Saturday (17th November).

If you have a comic fan at home, don't miss this rare discount deal. If you have a reluctant reader at home, you might want to try using comics to spark their interest.

Click the following link or banner to see what comics are available.
Promo Code: comics50
But NOW before it is too late.