Author: Christina Refford

Tree Change Dolls: Turning trash (i.e. Bratz Dolls) into treasure.

Like many parents I know, I have never been a fan of the pouty-lipped, heavy-lidded, overly-made-up Bratz line of dolls. But after I saw what this mother-daughter team has been doing to “rescue” the discarded toys, I was totally charmed by the sweet little dolls who it turns out were were hiding behind all those false eyelashes and lip injections. Renamed Tree Change Dolls, from an Australian phrase that refers to a move from urban glitz to a more down-to-earth style, these repurposed dolls aren’t even recognizable as their formerly wide-eyed selves. Their eyebrows are repainted to be more natural, their lips look less injected, and even their hair is reconditioned...

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LEGO goes to the birds

It’s going to be a while before I can look out my window and see anything bright and colorful fluttering around my yard, so I’m especially pleased that LEGO has chosen to release LEGO Birds, a brand new set of feathered friends that is so realistic, I may just gaze at them instead. The set features detailed models of a hummingbird, blue jay, and robin, each standing between 5 and 7 inches tall and perched on its own stand with its Latin name in front. There’s even a pamphlet more more info on the species inside. It all adds up to a certain sophistication which means I...

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Personalized growth charts for kids from Tinyme: Oh the cuteness.

Before you start making more pencil marks on the wall, remember this: Long after the crib is gone and the tiny toddler shoes are replaced by giant adult-size sneakers, that growth chart you started oh-so-many years ago may be something you want to keep. So choose wisely. We have shared many awesome-looking growth charts over the years that we love and now we’ve found one more resource: The personalized growth chart decals from Tinyme, the stylish gift company that just keeps on impressing us. The decals come in six adorable styles that are fun and playful but won’t look totally out of place in an older-kids’...

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Year-end charitable donations and purchases that put people to work

Before you close the books on 2014, there is still time to make a big difference in the lives of other people. Supporting an organization that gives people in need a chance to earn a living for themselves and their families is a great way to make your dollars matter, so I put together some favorites. Plus, for many of the organizations featured here, you can purchase something wonderful for yourself or friends and family as a way to support others. Of course the purchase of goods won’t be tax-deductible, like an outright donation. But we love any way that helps ensure great organizations like these will...

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The coolest kids’ music of the year: Editors’ Best of 2014

Whether you like your kids’ music to speed things up or chill them out, 2014 was a very good year for independent kids’ music, otherwise known as “kindie.” Four of our favorite albums were nominated for Grammy awards, while artists like Lori Henriques and Walter Martin continued to elevate and challenge what is typically regarded as music for kids. And while we never want the artists to forget the pint-sized audience they are performing for, we love that our favorites are albums we often find ourselves listening to in the car even when we’re riding solo.   So, after listening to dozens and dozens of...

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Gift a year of creativity with Curious Jane Magazine

If you have a curious, crafty, smart, and creative tween, we have a cool new gift idea that isn’t a craft kit or art supplies, but a brand new magazine that will fill her head with things to make, projects to do, and fun ways to spend her time in the upcoming year. Curious Jane Magazine is the newly-launched magazine from the creators of the Curious Jane summer camps and after-school programs for girls 6-11. Like the camps, which our editor Liz’s daughter has attended and loved, the magazine is designed to give young girls their own space to create, think, and imagine. We’ve...

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Please judge these beautiful gift books by their covers

A glance through our archives shows that we love wonderful books for kids. If you would like to help get a child in your life as hooked on books as we are, check out this stunning four-book collection of classic children’s titles. With new cover art by Rifle Paper Co’s Anna Bond, whose stationery and gifts have been featured many times on Cool Mom Picks, the In Bloom Book Collection pulls together four well-known titles in children’s literature: Little Women, Heidi, A Little Princess, and Anne of Green Gables. Each of these storybooks could stand on its own as a gift, but these new covers make them especially impressive as...

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The ultimate subscription gift box gift guide: 10 cool subscription gift boxes that keep on giving

Yes, Hanukkah is here and Christmas is coming (fast) but no need to panic if you still have VIPs to shop for on your list and are scrambling for last-minute gift ideas. By now, you’ve surely heard of the magic of subscription gift boxes as gifts: Just sign up and they’ll regularly send a curated box of goodies for new parents, dads, kids, foodies, dogs (yes, dogs), as well as boxes for just about any special interest you can imagine, from coffee lovers to geekery. We’ve seen them all, and recommended our favorite over the years. Along with the subscription gift...

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3 new Kiwi Crates for older and younger kids to help you finish that holiday shopping in a snap

You’ve heard us singing the praises of Kiwi Crate’s monthly subscription crates full of projects for kids ages 3-8 for years, but if your kids fall outside of those age ranges, tough luck, right? Not anymore. Their three new crates will help you cross off even more kids on your holiday list. Doesn’t that make you feel merry?   Older, artistic-minded kids who enjoy making things with their hands will dig Doodle Crate, with a new DIY idea packed inside each month for kids ages 9-16+. My two tweens loved making geometric canvas pouches inside the crate they tried. I appreciated that everything was...

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Four of the best multiple-solution puzzles for kids. Because there’s no one right way to play.

If you’re still puzzled (yes, I went there) over what to get some of the kids on your list, keep reading. Whether it is a small wooden puzzle for little hands to manipulate, or something larger and more complex that gets the entire family involved, a well-made puzzle is a great plaything that will never require batteries or a wi-fi connection. And if your kids prefer their play to be more open-ended, we’ve found four options with multiple solutions so that their finished product doesn’t have to look the same way twice.   Nene Imagination’s Puzzles Without Borders: Penguins and Friends (shown at top)...

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Superhero hats for kids who already have the capes. And the imagination.

Even superheroes can get chilled while out leaping tall snow drifts in a single bound. To keep your caped—or cloaked–crusader toasty, check out Neon Eaters’ warm and adorable superhero knit hat at Psychobaby. I love the simple styling with its contrast-color “mask” and bold star which allows your kids to be whatever superhero they feel like being that day. And I appreciate that the eyeholes are large enough for good peripheral vision since we all know that villains tend to lurk in corners. Just remind your superhero to look out for icy patches when they go speeding down the sidewalk faster...

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Gorgeous wooden toy cars that run on imagination

Some of the best toys don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, or even horns, to make them a plaything that kids will love for years. Our newest find is Candylab’s stunning, yet durable, wooden toy cars. After Candylab wooden toy cars received some acceleration from a super-successful Kickstarter campaign, six styles are ready to roll up to your house in time for the holidays for any vehicle-loving child and their mid-century-modern-loving parents. Designed in Brooklyn, made of solid beech wood, colored in water-based paints, and rolling on food-grade rubber tires, Candylab’s entire garage of toy cars are the kinds...

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Easy Christmas cookie shortcut: Walkers shortbread. Really!

If you would love to decorate cookies with the kids but have a to-do list as long as mine, my new favorite, and delicious, shortcut to easy Christmas cookies may work for you. It’s those amazing, pure butter shortbread cookies from Walkers, the Scottish company that you can find all over the place. Unlike some other store-bought cookies, Walkers’ aren’t made with a bunch of preservatives or ingredients like hydrogenated-or-high-fructose anything. If you’ve never looked at the label, there are only four ingredients: wheat flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Just like I’d make, if I didn’t have that pesky to-do list. So for easy cookie decorating, I...

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A gift for kids who believe fairies are real. Aren’t they?

I may not allow Elf on a Shelf in my house, and Peter Pan is definitely not welcome to fly through my kids’ bedroom window, but having some magical fairy visitors would be just fine. Especially if it means my kids go eagerly to bed in the hopes that one will stop by while they are sleeping. The Dreamland Fairy Kit is just the kind of place a fairy may want to visit and would make an awesome fairy gift for kids who believe that fairies are real. Developed by moms Cassie Slane and Ami Van Dine after their six-year-old daughters proposed the...

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O LEGO tree, O LEGO tree…

If all your kids want for Christmas is more LEGO pieces to add to their never big enough collection, they’ll be thrilled to discover that you can even cover the Christmas tree with those beloved bricks in the form of LEGO ornaments. Here are three great shops to start to help them on their quest for LEGO domination of the world! Or okay, maybe just Christmas tree domination.   If your LEGO fanatics like the building part of LEGO most of all, they’ll be thrilled to receive one of LEGO building master Chris McVeigh’s LEGO ornament kits. I absolutely love the modern designs and cool...

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Macaroni and Cruise: A totally different kind of family cruise featuring some of our favorite bands

If you’re looking for a family gift this holiday that blows a lot of ideas out of the water, I’ve got one to float by you: a cruise. We did it a couple of years ago, and the kids were thrilled when they realized that the box full of sunscreen, snorkels, and travel brochures meant that they’d be hitting the high seas later in the year. Kristen and Liz have checked out the Disney Cruises with their families. But now there’s one more and it’s not like Disney at all. This year’s gift vacation hit for me is the new Macaroni and Cruise family vacation, a four-night...

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15 of the most gorgeous printable holiday crafts for kids and families. Better get those printers warmed up!

Each year, I love rounding up the best printable holiday crafts that so many amazing designers, artists, and all-around crafty people develop so that people like me can create beautiful things with our kids. In fact, they make it so easy for me to print out not only holiday paper crafts, but also beautiful gift tags and vibrant wrapping paper, I never have to make a night-before-Christmas run for those things anymore. (If only I could print tape.) So I’ve put together 15 of my favorite printable holiday crafts to do with the kids this season. And with three kids, you...

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The little Christmas tree that’s not a Charlie Brown tree

If you’re short on space, before you spring for any new holiday decorations this year, check out Milani’s bright and bouncy beechwood-and-steel small modern Christmas tree on a Spring which does a great job of combining contemporary and fun. It’s small, but doesn’t look kie a Charlie Brown tree. And hey, it won’t shed needles all over your floor. At 12-inches high, this tree doesn’t need a lot of space to liven up a room and, though I love it as is, it can be customized with your own small ornaments and decorations. Grab it in green, red, blue, or multicolored, or set...

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The best local chocolatiers around the USA: The most delicious way to support Small Business Saturday

Every year, we are huge supporters of Small Business Saturday, ever since the first grassroots effort. You can look back through our archives for our writers’ favorite small businesses from Brooklyn to Albuquerque but this year we wanted to point out another way to support small businesses today while tearing through your holiday lists: Local chocolate gifts. Independent chocolatiers are some of my favorite small businesses to support any time of year, because fresh local ingredients combined with regional flavors and packaging means treats you just can’t find anywhere else. And whether you want to send a special gift or have something delicious...

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12 free (or mostly free) Thanksgiving printables from place cards to gift tags to coloring pages for the kids.

We’ve given you some delicious turkey, mashed potato, stuffing, and cranberry sauce recipes, now let us help you finish up your planning with some easy Thanksgiving printables for gift tags, decor, even coloring pages and craft projects for the kids that will have your guests wondering “however did she find the time?” We’ll never tell how easy it was.   Recently, Liz talked about making holiday tables fun for kids, and I agree! In fact, you can set your entire table with a family-friendly Thanksgiving printable set including a table covering, coloring pages, placemats, and napkin pouches all designed by our friends Mike and Alma Loveland...

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