Birthday Party Ideas On A Budget

Piggybacking on our Summer Party Ideas post we wanted to continue this theme with a focus on birthday parties for your little ones. We all know that parties can get a little pricey; all of those random supplies begin to add up and before you know it you're spending more than you ever imagined. So we are here to help and offer some fun DIY ideas for your next party that is sure to be a hit and keep your budget down.

Bug Party

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Feed all of the hungry little caterpillars at your party with this adorably easy sandwich display. Just make various types of sandwiches, cut them into circle shapes and arrange as so, and use various veggies to create the caterpillars head and feet.

Bug Hat
Recreate these cute little bug hats at your child's birthday party. All you need is some construction paper, black pipe cleaners, puffy balls, scissors and hot glue. Let the little ones creativity soar as they have tons of fun making their very own version of a bug hat by encouraging them to add wings, spider legs, or multiple eyes.

Construction Party

Construction Table Cloth
With some parchment paper, long black paper, and yellow duct tape you can recreate this adorable tablescape. Add some paint chips, toys construction vehicles, and plastic hard hats for the perfect picturesque birthday bash. 

Free Printable Construction Signs
Create an adorable construction inspired dessert table display with these free printable signs from Birthday Express. With just a printer, some scissors, and mini orange cones this easy DIY birthday craft is sure to make a memorable party! To attached your newly cut construction signs to the mini orange cones all you have to do is slice a slit across the top with an exacto blade.

Carnival Party

DIY Strongman Dumbbell Treats
Make these rad strongman dumbbells out of marshmallows by dipping them in chocolate. After they are dry add some numbers on them with some white frosting and add them to two ends of a striped paper straw.

Geo Circus Party Printable

Get this adorable set of geo circus inspired pritables from Tinyme! This rad website is full of something beautiful inspirational crafts, printables, and graphics. This is an easy and fun way to add some cute decor to your next circus party.

XO Kerisa

Summer Party Ideas On A Budget

Watermelon Party

Watermelon Pops
This super easy DIY snack is an affordable and fun way to get the kids to eat their fruit. Just cut up some watermelon and add a popsicle stick to create a melon pop!

Painted Napkins
You and the little ones will have loads of fun stamping on watermelon print to a cloth napkin. Not only will they be adorable for a summer get together but you can use them year round in your kitchen as a cute hand towel.

Free Printable Invites
Can you believe that these rad invitations are completely free! We could hardly control our excitement when we found these gems.
 

One In A Melon Backdrop
Recreate this DIY with some colored construction paper, scissors, tape, and paint! Whether you choose it for a food backdrop, photobooth, or dessert display this is a photo worthy craft that is sure to be a hit at your summer get together.


Let's Flamingle!

DIY Flamingo Balloon Decor
Water balloons are a staple in a kids fun summer party get together. Now lets turn those cute pink ones into adorable flamingo balloons. Blow up water balloons, cut out flamingo shaped wings, head, and beak use some tape and glue to put it all together and even add a stick into the mix.

Flamingo Straw DIY
Recreate these adorable straws using pink feathers, pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls, paint, and those cute paper striped straws. Drinking from these flamingos are guaranteed to add a whole new level of of awesomeness to your summer party.

DIY Flamingo Ring Toss Yard Game
Purchase some of those rad plastic flamingo lawn trinkets and some plastic rings to create this fun game for your summer party. Depending on where you are setting this activity you can either stick them right into your lawn or use some sand and pots to turn this ring toss into an indoor game. Plus you can customize it with some spray paint to make sure that you stick with your chosen color theme!

Hip Eyewear For Kids & An Awesome Cause

You know those really awesome companies that just inspire you to your core and make you proud to be part of this wonderful world? Well Jonas Paul Eyewear is one of those rad companies! We are super stoked to partner with them for an amazing giveaway, keep an eye out on Instagram for it! @CraftingItForward

Jonas Paul Eyewear provides not on functional and affordable eyewear to kids but all of their styles are super hip and trendy. We sort of wish they came in adult sizes too! But the really cool thing about them is their give back component, for every pair of Jonas Paul Eyewear frames that are purchased, 10% of those proceeds go to a little one or someone who is in need of vision treatment. This is accomplished through the service of CBM International and Restoring Vision. They will cover the cost of eye care, provide corrective eyeglasses for children in need, offer antiparasitic medicine to prevent Onchocerciasis, and cataract surgeries. Awesome right!

Now it’s time to hear all about the inspiration behind Jonas Paul Eyewear and the amazing little boy who started it all! Laura and Ben Harrison’s visually impaired son Jonas who was born with some pretty major medical issues that brought on some big challenges. More specifically he was diagnosed with Peter’s Anomaly. After multiple surgeries, cornea transplants, sleepless nights, and worried parents Jonas’s sight began to improve and a ray of light shined within his adorable little smile.

After realizing that there weren’t any good eyewear options and definitely not any at an affordable price.  So John Paul Eyewear decided to fill that gap by providing function and new form to children’s vision solutions.

So how does it all work? If there isn’t a location near you Jonas Paul Eyewear offers an at home try on kit. With just a $25 deposit you will get six different frames in the small kit or three in the larger kit. Then you will have seven days to try them on and take your time when deciding which one is the best fit for your child. Need prescription lenses? All you have to do is email in a copy of your little one’s prescription from the doctor and in just two short weeks your glasses will be waiting for you on your doorstep. But if you need to sooner they offer expedited shipping.

Now that you know all about Jonas Paul Eyewear it’s time to take a look at all their rad styles for yourself!

May The Force Be With You… And Your Family

We know it’s no secret that we love a good craft and in case you didn’t know we’re also huge Star War geeks, so what could be better than mixing the two? Nothing, duh! So now that we have all that established it is time to plan out your crafting Star Wars watching marathon.

Drive-In Landspeeder
How fun would these cardboard Landspeeders be for your little ones to sit and enjoy the movie? Create your very own drive-in with these adorable hovercrafts. With come cardboard, tape, a glue gun, paint, and lots of crafting fun your kid’s imagination will soar. Check out the full tutorial here.

Death Star Piñata
Put your kid’s toy lightsabers to good use with this DIY Death Star piñata. Enjoy transforming a premade baseball or soccer ball piñata with some paint and paper to create this iconic Star Wars symbol.

Toilet Tube Star Wars Characters
We love a good DIY craft that utilizes all of those seemingly useless toilet paper rolls around the house. Now add in color paper, scissors, glue, tape, a hole punch, and lots of imagination. Get creative and have fun with it! Grab other random supplies from around the house and encourage your kids to use their creativity to create their favorite Star Wars character or even have them imagine their own.

Movie Snacks
Here are some deliciously adorable Star Wars inspired snacks that will perfect for eating during your movie marathon night.

Help Kids Thrive Against Cancer!

Your questions: Who have I been sending our finished crafts too? Answer: we have teamed up with the MaxLove Project! They are a great nonprofit organization that is sending out resources, gifts, and info to children who are fighting cancer! Every single month they receive the crafts you make at home with your little ones and distribute them to some awesome children who are fighting cancer. These little ones LOVE receiving your crafts and hand written notes! Thanks for joining our movement to craft with purpose! Image Source

Your questions: Who have I been sending our finished crafts too? Answer: we have teamed up with the MaxLove Project! They are a great nonprofit organization that is sending out resources, gifts, and info to children who are fighting cancer! Every single month they receive the crafts you make at home with your little ones and distribute them to some awesome children who are fighting cancer. These little ones LOVE receiving your crafts and hand written notes! Thanks for joining our movement to craft with purpose! Image Source

It's no secret that our vision at Crafting It Forward is to give your kiddos the chance to learn first hand the joy of giving. In addition to delivering finished crafts to seniors and kids thriving against cancer, we also provide families the opportunity to sponsor a box for sick kiddos to make their own crafts. 

One of the wonderful organizations we partner with to make this possible is MaxLove Project. MaxLove is a nonprofit organization that helps superkids thrive against cancer and other life-threatening conditions. They work to maximize quality of life, and reduce serious health risks, by educating and providing ways to improve health with fierce foods and whole-body wellness. MaxLove Project believes that every child should have the opportunity to thrive in the face of even the toughest odds. Once we found out about their therapeutic arts hospital-based program that provides hands-on arts and crafts, we knew they'd make the perfect partners! To find out more about what MaxLove Project does and what you can do to help click this link.

Watching the joy on these children's faces when we provide them with these fun interactive crafts is an amazing feeling. Many of the kids find themselves bored in the hospital with nothing to do but watch movies all day. We have heard from many of the families how much our crafts mean to the children; it is a creative outlet and constructive activity that keeps their minds active. Please be a part of this joy and help us continue to send crafts to these children in need!

Super Amos is battling brain cancer, with a fierce heart, courage, and lots of love from everyone who knows him! He likes to play with his little brother, read, and create art! And he is super thankful for the child who crafted this kaleidoscope for him and mailed it forward!!! Image Source

Super Amos is battling brain cancer, with a fierce heart, courage, and lots of love from everyone who knows him! He likes to play with his little brother, read, and create art! And he is super thankful for the child who crafted this kaleidoscope for him and mailed it forward!!! Image Source

We hope you join our movement to craft with purpose for a few reasons. 1. You get to spend family time and build creativity with your little ones since we send you a DIY craft box each month. But, 2. Once you are finished enjoying the crafts, we have included an address label so you can mail it forward to a child that is fighting cancer.... Look at Harley, she loves the crown that ONE OF YOU MADE FOR HER!!!! Using some of the MaxLove Project resources, Harley's Mom has created a healing environment and lifestyle for Harley to thrive in. She utilizes therapeutic broth, whole foods, and lots of playing and community to thrive against the odds! We love MaxLove Project and we love all of you who are crafting with purpose for kids like Harley! Harley, you are beautiful, and you are thriving! Image Source

We hope you join our movement to craft with purpose for a few reasons. 1. You get to spend family time and build creativity with your little ones since we send you a DIY craft box each month. But, 2. Once you are finished enjoying the crafts, we have included an address label so you can mail it forward to a child that is fighting cancer.... Look at Harley, she loves the crown that ONE OF YOU MADE FOR HER!!!! Using some of the MaxLove Project resources, Harley's Mom has created a healing environment and lifestyle for Harley to thrive in. She utilizes therapeutic broth, whole foods, and lots of playing and community to thrive against the odds! We love MaxLove Project and we love all of you who are crafting with purpose for kids like Harley! Harley, you are beautiful, and you are thriving! Image Source

If you are signed up to get our Crafting It Forward boxes, you and your little ones are making a difference! Here's me and an adorable 3 year old girl crafting for TWO HOURS straight while getting her chemo. She won my heart!!! YOU are crafting with purpose! Thank you!!! Image Source

If you are signed up to get our Crafting It Forward boxes, you and your little ones are making a difference! Here's me and an adorable 3 year old girl crafting for TWO HOURS straight while getting her chemo. She won my heart!!! YOU are crafting with purpose! Thank you!!! Image Source

This is Nela. Please pray for her and send good vibes for her scans next week. Nela fought cancer like a champ, is thriving in her survivorship, and is the most adorable little girl EVER. The MaxLove Project gave her the craft that Natali, one of our Crafting It Forward subscribers, made for her!!!  It's amazing to seeing little ones supporting each other. Image Source

This is Nela. Please pray for her and send good vibes for her scans next week. Nela fought cancer like a champ, is thriving in her survivorship, and is the most adorable little girl EVER. The MaxLove Project gave her the craft that Natali, one of our Crafting It Forward subscribers, made for her!!!  It's amazing to seeing little ones supporting each other. Image Source

I just wanted to take a moment to say Thank you! Thank you for those of you who have joined our movement to craft with purpose. Tonight I received a few photos of this little one who is fighting cancer (she is our hero). She received one of the finished crafts that one of our Crafting It Forward families made and mailed forward using the address label that we provide in each box (we have teamed up with MaxLove Project to get your cute crafts in the hands of children fighting serious illnesses). It's moments like this where I know TOGETHER we are making a difference (even if it's a little one). When you get one of our boxes you build creativity and family time with your littles….But you also get the opportunity to bring a smile to a child that is fighting cancer. Thank You!!!! Image Source

I just wanted to take a moment to say Thank you! Thank you for those of you who have joined our movement to craft with purpose. Tonight I received a few photos of this little one who is fighting cancer (she is our hero). She received one of the finished crafts that one of our Crafting It Forward families made and mailed forward using the address label that we provide in each box (we have teamed up with MaxLove Project to get your cute crafts in the hands of children fighting serious illnesses). It's moments like this where I know TOGETHER we are making a difference (even if it's a little one). When you get one of our boxes you build creativity and family time with your littles….But you also get the opportunity to bring a smile to a child that is fighting cancer. Thank You!!!! Image Source

We are doing everything we can to start a movement. A movement to craft with purpose. For those that are getting our craft boxes and then crafting the finished crafts forward, here is an update! Sweet SuperKid Gena is thriving against DIPG. Her SuperMomma and SuperFam are helping Gena fiercely fight her brain cancer with a diet of whole foods, healing narratives, and lots of love. Gena was very impressed that 5 year old Meela made this gift for her, and says "thank you!" Facing daunting diagnoses can be tough, but when lifted up by loving kids and families "crafting it forward," MaxLove Project's SuperKids feel the love and encouragement. Image Source

We are doing everything we can to start a movement. A movement to craft with purpose. For those that are getting our craft boxes and then crafting the finished crafts forward, here is an update! Sweet SuperKid Gena is thriving against DIPG. Her SuperMomma and SuperFam are helping Gena fiercely fight her brain cancer with a diet of whole foods, healing narratives, and lots of love. Gena was very impressed that 5 year old Meela made this gift for her, and says "thank you!" Facing daunting diagnoses can be tough, but when lifted up by loving kids and families "crafting it forward," MaxLove Project's SuperKids feel the love and encouragement. Image Source

Don't Just Survive Parenthood, Thrive

Being a parent has to be one of the toughest jobs imaginable. Not only do you have a little human who is depending on you for everything from food, shelter, warmth, and love, but it is also up to you to raise them, shape, and mold your minis into wonderful, thoughtful, and responsible human-beings. Sound like an impossible task? Well, we are here to provide tips and thoughtful insights to help you not just survive parenthood, but to help you and your kiddos thrive!

STRESS

Stress is something that we all face, and it's a feeling that none of us enjoy. As parents we want to protect our children and provide/create the best lives for them, but lately this goal has meant that many moms and dads are coddling their little ones to safeguard them from ever experiencing stress. While it's natural to feel this way, stress is something that every single one of us will eventually face, and increasingly we age and our responsibilities grow.

Trying to prevent your kids from ever experiencing stress isn't going to prepare them for real life. If we give our children more responsibility, enforce chores, and set expectations it is only going to help them learn to properly handle stress as they get older. It's a vital skill that we all need to learn and preparing your kids early is going to allow them to learn how to handle stress and not feel overwhelmed or lost.

An easy way to start is to create regular chores for your children at any age. Even at two years young, your little ones can begin to assist in setting the table (with some child friendly tableware of course). Setting expectation in your child's life will help them to be prepared for handling responsibility. One easy example to begin with is explaining to your child that it is their job to clean up their toys every time they play with them. If you would like some helpful tips on how to "Keep House With Little Ones" check out our past blog post.

STAYING POSITIVE

Between the temper tantrums, broken dishes, burnt dinner, messy home, and a biting toddler it's hard not to get into a downward spiral of self doubt. It's so easy to look past all of the positives and only focus on the negatives in our lives. This tendency is such a shame, there's so much to be thankful for that is constantly overlooked. It's time that we shift our perspective and learn to recognize all of our little successes throughout the day, because it's all of those small achievements that collectively create a fulfilling life. 

Even if it's just simply getting the kids dressed and to school on time or packing a homemade lunch everyone in the family you should take joy in these accomplishments. Be positive and take joy in these successful moments that occur throughout your day. Being anything less than positive teaches your children to look at life through a negative scope.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

Having love and support in your life is essential to thriving. Human health depends on creating connections with other human beings. Studies show that our health (both mental and physical) suffers when we are isolated from human interactions. Social isolation can lead to huge health problems like high blood pressure, obesity, depression, decreased immunity, etc. Sounds pretty scary huh? If you feel like you are home alone all day with the kids or stuck doing household chores, we have a few tips to help you find your much needed support system.

Other parents are feeling the exact same way you are and are looking for people they can lean on. All you need to do is find them! Get out of your comfort zone and join a mommy and me or MOPS group, venture off to your local library for story time, or take a trip to your local park with your little ones to find another parent you can connect with. Facebook is also a great resource for finding groups in your area with similar interests. Joining a church, or getting more involved if you already have one, is another wonderful way to find a support group.

Support systems are about more than just increasing the amount of adult interactions you have throughout the week; it's about having someone to turn to when you need some extra encouragement. Talking about your struggles and venting is something that you simply can't do with your kids. There are times when you need to invite someone over for a glass of wine to talk about something other than Sesame Street, and to connecting over the struggles of parenting and the joys of watching your child grow. Creating a support system is vital to thriving through parenthood.

MOMMY AND/OR DADDY BREAK

Let's face it, some days are tougher than others. We have all faced times when it seems like the whole world is against you; nothing seems to be going right, and you just can't find a single moment in the day to take a break from it all. Do yourself a favor and simply tell your kids that you need some quiet time. It's perfectly okay to tell your little ones to quietly play with their legos for fifteen minutes while you drink your coffee in the other room.

Enforcing daily "quiet times" is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a parent. Taking fifteen minutes to recharge will not only put you in a better mood but will help you to be more present when that quiet time is over.

Everyone has their own ways for surviving parenthood, whether it's turning on the television to avoid break downs or making mac and cheese for the third day in a row, we are all just doing our best! The thing that matters most is the love you have for you children and showing them just how much they mean to you. Life isn't perfect, parenthood will be full of bumps, hills, and even mountains that you need to get over... but in the end there are really few jobs that are better than this one. 

xo, Kerisa Ward

Family Fun Easter Activities

Hop into the Easter with these adorable & fun spring activities that the whole family is sure to love!
 

Make Bunny Crayons

Recycle all of your old and broken crayons laying around the house and make these festive rainbow bunny crayons. These are super simple to make! All you have to do is purchase a silicone bunny mold, add broken up crayons, and bake for ten minutes at 300 F. See all of the directions here!

Make Rock Candy

Turn your kitchen into a science lab and teach your little ones how to make your very own rock candy. Trust us they will love watching the rock crystals grow in just one week! For all of the detailed instructions click here.

Sock Bunnies

So you know all those adorable socks that are laying around whose matching pair has just seemed to vanish out of thin air? Now they can be put to good use and transformed into an adorable sock bunny! This DIY is perfect for teaching your kids the basics of sewing. *Please be consciousness of the age appropriateness of the needle and scissors being used.* Just snip, sew, and stuff to make this cute little fella! Your kids will love customizing them by drawing on a face, gluing on googly eyes, or painting on a nose; the possibilities are endless!

Easter Bunny Treat Cones

Hop on over to We Are Scout for this adorable free printable! All you need to do is print, cut, roll, and tape to make the perfect little treat cone, stuff it with some yummy goodies and enjoy!

Cute Carrot Treat Cones

How about some adorable carrots to go with the bunny cones? We Are Scout created this free printable to add even more cuteness to your DIY Easter decor!

Ice Cream Cone Easter Eggs

It's no secret that painting eggs is the most popular crafting activity to partake in around Easter, so why not take advantage and create the cutest little ice cream cone eggs? These guys are sure to melt your heart and bring some adorable fun into your holiday celebration.

Painted Bunny Jars

These darling bunny jars are a great DIY craft for you and your little ones to do together! Even though Make Life Lovely recommends that you spray paint the jars, we think it would be just as great if you had your kids paint directly on the jar themselves with their favorite paint brush or sponge. This is a great way to use all of those empty baby jars, mason jars, jelly jars, or any jar really.  

What Easter crafts do you have planned this year? We would love to see them on Instagram, tag us at @CraftingItForward or hashtag #CraftingItForward!

xo Kerisa Ward

Kid Clothes That Are Hipper Than Yours!

Now, we know that in real life your kiddos won't always be all dolled up. But, who among us can resist admiring these adorable outfits? And, who knows, maybe you'll get some birthday gifting inspiration...or some ideas for your own next outfit! Scroll down for maximum cuteness!

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Social Media.. The Ugly Truth

We've talked before on CIF about New Year's Resolutions and how implementing a technology detox was a goal for this year. Now we want to talk about the reasons why it's important to cut back on social media use, plus some helpful tips on how to actually do it!

Most of us like to believe that we are great at multitasking. We can parent, respond to a work email, watch some tv, and catch on our news feeds all at the same time and, oh have dinner coking on the stove as well! But the hard truth is that successful multitasking is a myth. Multitasking is just switching between tasks rapidly, and it actually it increases stress and affects the quality of the tasks that we do finish. And I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want the quality of my parenting to be anything less than my absolute best. So now that the reality check has settled in, it's time to look more into how I can improve as a parent and how much social media is actually hindering our lives. 

After reading this eye opening article on Parenting.com, I have come to the sad realization that I spend way too much time caring about what others think. I, like many others, am obsessed with capturing that perfect image. Whether it's capturing my kids in a perfectly adorable shot, or that precisely-placed meal I just prepped, I would stand there snapping away and adjusting the shot until I got it to that "post worthy" image. And, of course, it's only natural to tailor your news feed so that all of your friends and family can see all of the lovely, brag-worthy, highlights of your life. But, when we communicate with each other this way, it creates a misconception that everyone's lives are better than our own; picture perfect, and flawless. I know, saying it out loud makes that idea sounds crazy, but if you don't take a step back to check in with your thoughts,  it's very easy to caught up in comparison trap & forget reality. 

The comparison trap I'm talking about might look something like this: you cook a nice meal (in a time crunch) for your family, but when you check your news feed, you see a beautiful & elaborate dish that some other mother made for her family. You might then make comparisons and start to feel like you aren't good enough...but the truth is that gorgeous meal probably has a kitchen full of mess to go with it!  I'm here to tell you that social media isn't real life, and it isn't the full picture. Nobody is perfect, everyone struggles, has flaws, and bad days but no one posts about any of that. And why would you? It's nice to showcase your good days & your beautiful children, but lately it seems like we all do it just a little too often. 

Speaking of children, it's also important that we consider how our social media habits might impact them. Did you know that 32% of parents have deleted a previous social media post about their child in realization that it was oversharing? Detoxing from technology and social media to create real memories with our loved ones can teach us to live in the moment, and to have improved perspective into our own lives. I want to enjoy every second I have with my children, and I am careful now to avoid constantly interrupting those family moments to snap a shot.

So, what are we to do about all this social media business? Here are a few tips to help you detox & gain control over your social media experience:

  • Turn off notification alerts. These alerts bring attention away from whatever is going on in that moment and draws your attention to your phone. It's only natural to then pick up your phone and investigate, so by turning these notifications off you will now only notice any unread comments or messages when you choose to.
  • Create time for social media. This may seem like an contradiction to everything I've been talking about in this post, but creating scheduled time for social media throughout the day means that you can 100% commit the rest of your time to your family, work, and yourself without constant media distractions. Remember: multitasking is just a myth.
  • Use a printed cookbook or print out a recipe you found online, then log off. If you look it up on your phone, you may be tempted to take a few seconds to check Facebook or Instagram...and then spend far more time than you really wanted to. 
  • Limit your posts. If you are a posting fanatic,  commit to a new goal of only allowing yourself to post once per day, or maybe even once a week. This way you have to really take the time to reflect on the favorite part of your day or the highlight of the week.
  • Ask your kids if they are okay with you posting something involving them before you post. This will create an open and honest conversation about what they are comfortable with others knowing, and allows them to create their own boundaries of what they feel is acceptable.

Have any hot tips of your own? Please share them with us! 

XO Kerisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Your Summer Vacation?

Now that the holidays are over and summer is right around the corner it's time to start planning your family vacation! Choosing the perfect spot that will make everyone happy can be a bit tricky. Between the kids wanting to constantly be on the go, your partners dreams of visiting every historically site imaginable, and your wish of just finding time to relax it all can feel a bit overwhelming. So, we compiled our list of our favorite family vacation spots, along with some tips, to help you get started!

Disneyland

Of course we couldn't start off this without including the happiest place on earth! If you are traveling here with your little ones may we suggest that you read of previous blog post that talks all about the best rides for those toddlers in your life.

Here are our tips for choosing Disney as your summer vacation spot this year:

  1. If you stay at one of the Disneyland hotels you have the awesome advantages of being able to enter the parks an hour before it's open to the public. Now talk about avoiding crowds! If your little ones have trouble waking up early, you can set up a surprise wake up call from one of their favorite Disney characters, now we're sure that will get them out of bed.
  2. Another perk of staying at one of the Disney hotels is having the option to leave the kids at Pinocchio's Workshop while you and your partner take some time away from the little ones. Don't worry; your kids will be too busy watching movies, doing arts and crafts, and playing games to even notice you're gone.
  3. F neither of the tips above interest you then finding a hotel off property can be a great way to save hundreds. There are plenty of nearby hotels and many of them offer free shuttles and continental breakfast. We always recommend that your keep an eye out for Groupon deals or Living Social;there always seem to have great hotel options.
  4. Now since you'll be in sunny southern California we suggest that you take advantage of the other fun things to do in the area. Like the beach, Hollywood, Knotts Berry Farm, whale watching, Legoland, and other fun activities of that sort. That said, we recommend that when you plan out your itinerary for the week that you save Disneyland and/or California Adventure for the middle of the week like Wednesday, when it's the least crowded.
  5. Pack a water bottle! Packing a water bottle and refilling it along the way at water fountains is a great way to save money. Plus you help save the planet a little bit by not using up so many plastic bottles. Oh, and if you happen to forget your water bottle and don't want to spend the +$2.50 on water, just go to the nearest Starbucks and ask for some water in a trenta cup. Trust us they never say no, and it's free!
  6. Create a souvenir budget. This tip applies to really any vacation, but we know that sometimes souvenir buying can get a bit out of control at Disneyland. And who can blame you, there are TONS of adorable items to purchase! Creating a budget for each of the kids will help keep the spending to a minimum, and it really forces your little ones to think about which items they really want and which items they are willing to part with. Now this budget only works if you stick to it, so yes Mom and Dad it's up to you to enforce the budget and decide how you want to keep track of the funds (whether each child is given, lets say, the $20 up front or if that's something you want to keep track of mentally).

The Grand Canyon

I don't know about you, but it's always been on my bucket list to visit all of the seven wonders of the world, and the Grand Canyon is no exception! This is a great vacation spot to take little ones since they have so many fun activities that are sure to be a win with the entire family. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. All Aboard! Grand Canyon's Railway is one of those activities that is always a highlight for those little boys in your life. The fascinations with trains is a phases that all kids seem to go through. Have fun spotting wild animals like mountain lions, eagles, and elk or enjoy watching cowboys sing and stroll around the passenger cars. Cowboys and trains?! I mean what more could your kids want out of a family vacation? Also this railway is especially magical during the holidays when it turns into the Polar Express.
  2. Mule Ride. This is an unforgettable activity that is a perfect way for anyone seven years of age or older to see the beautiful trails of the Grand Canyon. But if riding on a mule isn't really one of those things that is appealing to you then walking through those lovely trails is just as memorable.
  3. Become a Junior Ranger! Have little ones between the age of four to fourteen? Then they can earn a badge and become an official Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger. They will have tons of fun completing tasks in their activity booklet.
  4. Walk on Air. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is one of those activities that is sort of something that you have to do while you're there. This glass bottomed u-shaped observation deck juts out 70 feet over a 4,000 foot drop over the Colorado River.

Mall Of America

With 520 stores, 4 stories, a 7-acre playground, and over 30 rides and attractions Mall of America is guaranteed fun for the entire family. Now given that this is huge landmark that draws in large crowds due to all of the fun opportunities that are in store we've gathered a tips and tricks to help you plan your vacation here:

  1. You would think that having over 14,000 parking spots would mean that finding a spot should be stress free, but things can get still get a little crazy. Try to get there early and snag a spot that has covered ramps, mainly just so your car doesn't heat up too much in that summer sun.
  2. Toddler Tuesdays. Going with toddlers? Well Toddler Tuesdays are a wonderful day to go, espeially since it comes with some pretty awesome perks like featuring children's characters for meet-and-greets, craft activities, concerts, readings by children's authors and free stroller rentals. There may be a bonus, such as free breakfast, and kids eat free at more than two dozen restaurants.
  3. Nickelodeon Universe. If your kids love NickToons as much as mine they will be thrilled to meet all of their favorite characters and ride some pretty awesome rides. We recommend purchasing the wristband option since there are plenty of rides that are only valid for wristbands. 
  4. Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium. With thousands of sea creatures, including sharks, sea turtles, rays, jellyfish, seahorses and more your little ones will be mesmerized by all of the amazing things to see. Plus with fun interactive activities like the Ray Pool where you can touch and feed stingrays this is sure to be a memorable visit.
  5. Amazing Mirror Maze. So this activity may be a bit unconvetional when it comes to family vacation activities, but trust us, it's one that is sure to bring lots of laughs. With endless hallways, unexpected twists and turns, this larger than life maze is a fun activity that wont break the bank.
  6. Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. Okay we know that miniature golf isn't one of those specialty activities that you can only find at Mall of America, but it's still loads of fun. Enjoy life live moose and horse in this old time north woods themed course.
  7. A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center. The center says that they've had children as young a six years old join in on all of simulation fun, but they usually recommend that your children be about ten years of age to really enjoy this activity. Fly both modern F/A-18 Hornet jets and classic WWII fighters such as the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair in this sophisticated flight simulator where you can choose to either fly combat against one another or try your hand at landing on an aircraft carrier. This could be a great activity for the hubby to do with the kids, as I'm sure they'll have loads of fun learning to fly.

Sesame Place

A toddler's paradise: Sesame Place! Watch your little ones run around in delight as they meet Elmo and the gang. You wont be able to help but sing along and dance during the Neighborhood Street Party parade. And with age appropriate rides your tiny preschoolers will have a blast as they are able to enjoy all of the rides this amusement park has to offer. Ready to book your visit? First here are a few of tips:

  1.  Since there are loads of water rides at Sesame Place, we recommend that you veer towards the right when you enter the park to enjoy some of the more popular dry rides first. This way you can beat the sun and enjoy the dry side before running off to cool off in all of the water fun.
  2. Speaking of the hot sun and water, Sesame Park isn't the best at providing shade so we highly suggest that you bring strollers that have shades over them, hats, and lots of sunscreen.
  3. If you have any children over the age of five years old they may not be all that thrilled over what Sesame Place has to offer, so I would recommend adding Hershey Park to the vacation itinerary if you have older kids with you. 

Hershey Park & Hershey's Chocolate World

An amusement park and chocolate... dream come true! Plus, there are some pretty awesome things to do, like these below:

  1. You could easily spend two days at Hershey Park between the 70 rides and attractions and their waterpark side.
  2. Your admission ticket to Hershey Park also includes free admission into ZooAmerica where there are over 200 North American animals.
  3. Even entering Chocolate World is free! The only catch is that Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour is the only activity you can enjoy at no extra cost. They have four other fun interactive activities like creating your very own chocolate bar, solving a mystery, or going on a tasting adventure of a life time.
  4. Hershey Gardens. No these aren't gardens full of chocolate flowers but they are full of themed gardens,  butterfly house, rotating art exhibits and the children's garden where the plants are chocolate-scented.
  5. Fun fact: Hershey Park has complimentary WiFi (woohoo!)