Top Picks for Easter Baskets 2017

I feel like I'm getting this list out later than ever this year, but hopefully it will be worth the wait! My husband and I just got back from a little trip celebrating our wedding anniversary.  On our last day, I swung by the gift shop to bring home a gift for Holiday and discovered Bling2O swim goggles.  Can I just tell you that the online pictures don't even do them justice?! They are SOOOO ADORABLE in person and the boys' designs are every bit as cute as the girls.  Summer is right around the corner and these are definitely my top pick for both boys and girl this year! 

ALL of the pictures are links that will open in separate windows.  If you hover over each picture, you'll also see the item name which is also a link for the item.

Disclaimer:  I'm not sure if it's obvious how many hours go into creating my Easter and Christmas blog posts-- not to mention, always keeping my eyes out for the newest and greatest items to share with you all!  I have chosen not to put advertising on my blog for the time being.  However, for Amazon items, I do have an Amazon associates link.  Meaning if you follow my links to the items and purchase, I do get a very small percentage of your sale (most items I earn must 3%) so I do appreciate you purchasing through the links if you decide to purchase based on my blog! Thank you! 

BLING2O SWIM GOGGLES

There are SO many adorable styles, I didn't think you could really see the details on this collage picture!

 

BLING2O Girls Styles

BLING2O BOYS STYLES 

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT ALL THE BOYS STYLES! 

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT ALL THE BOYS STYLES! 

Bling2o Gooey Gator Swim (2 color options via link)

Bling2o Gooey Gator Swim (2 color options via link)

Bling2o Boys Super Hero 

Bling2o Boys Super Hero 

Bling2O also has a few other fun swim accessories that all rate super well! Grab some goggles, maybe one of these accessories, add in a super fun beach towel (Pottery Barn kids is my fave) and a pair of flip flops (Hanna Andersson or Havianas) and you have a fantastic Easter basket! 

The Bling Board Kick boards each contain a diving toy ball that is contained in the kick board! 

Shark Bling Board

Cupcake Bling Board

Candy Jar Snorkel Pink

Candy Jar Snorkel Brights

Hope y'all love these goggles as much as I do.  I bought Holiday the mermaid ones to give right away and a pair of the heart ones are stashed away for her Easter basket.  They were all SOOO cute, I just couldn't decide!!!! 

Chunkies and Kwik Stix Paint Sticks

Before Christmas, I was raving about the Lil' Chunkies Paint Sticks-- they are AMAZING!!!  We've continued to use them (Pssst- THEY'RE EVEN AWESOME FOR DECORATING EASTER EGGS!) Holiday also wanted some that were a little finer/ thinner, so I also purchased another brand, Kwik Stix that are essentially the same product, but make thinner/finer lines and kids are able to use a traditional pencil grip with them.  If you didn't buy them for Christmas, you will totally want them for Easter.  It's mess free painting for your littles of artists through age 8 will really enjoy these! (See below for perfect paint paper pads to go with these!) 

CLICK HERE FOR CHUNKIES PAINT STICKS! 

CLICK HERE FOR CHUNKIES PAINT STICKS! 

 Be sure to pick up a paint pad or heavyweight sketch paper for all their paintings.  I love the Kid Made Modern ones from Target, they run just about $5. Even our local grocery store had some other really cute paint pads for $2. 

KID MADE MODERN: HEAVY WEIGHT PAD CLICK HERE

KID MADE MODERN: LIGHT WEIGHT PAD CLICK HERE 

 

LIGHT STAX 

I discovered Light Stax right before Christmas this past year and they are SO much fun! They are more like the size of a Lego Duplo square brick, but they light up!  You just have to have them connected to a light up base.  Even older kids enjoy creating with the Light Stax. You can use the power base to connect to a USB and use it as a night light.  They really are AMAZING! 

Here's a YouTube video on Light Stax-- the possibilities are endless! 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO AMAZON LIGHT STAX

CLICK HERE TO GO TO AMAZON LIGHT STAX

Holiday used her Light Stax to make rainbows for her leprechaun trap on St. Patrick's Day! 

Holiday used her Light Stax to make rainbows for her leprechaun trap on St. Patrick's Day! 

 

 

FANDEX FAMILY FIELD GUIDES  

If you have kiddos who love absorbing and obsessing over certain topics, you might love the Fandex Family Field Guides as much as we do.  There are Fandex Field Guides for SO many topics from Dinosaurs and Presidents to Shakespeare, DC Comics Wildflowers and SO much more! They are really age appropriate for a large variety of ages.  I would say any child who is a fluent reader through adult- even younger children will enjoy the pictures and having the cards read to them. There is such a wealth of engaging information on each card, little readers are just as engaged as an adult.  CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE FANDEX OPTIONS

Fandex PRESIDENTS 

Fandex PRESIDENTS 

FANDEX Family Field Guide Presidents

FANDEX Family Field Guide Dinosaurs

FANDEX Family Field Guide 50 States

FANDEX Family Field Guide Butterflies

FANDEX Family Field Guide DC Comics and Villains

FANDEX Family Field Guide Star Wars

PEACEABLE KINGDOM STICKER FUN SETS 

I've used and blogged about many Peaceable Kingdom brand items in the past and have always loved their quality and creativity.  A few months ago I stumbled upon the Sticker Fun sets and ordered some for air travel we had coming up.  They were a HUGE hit!  The stickers are heavyweight- more like vinyl clings you'd put on a window and each set comes with several scenes to decorate.  The stickers are super easy to remove and reuse countless times!  There are SO many fun themes to choose from if you're doing a theme basket! 

She's showing the Mermaid set, but I snapped pics of the front and back of the unicorn set we also have.  They are SUPER fun! 

She's showing the Mermaid set, but I snapped pics of the front and back of the unicorn set we also have.  They are SUPER fun! 

At the Zoo

Cars and Trucks 

At the Airport

Space Adventures

Mermaid

Butterfly

Magical Unicorns

The Princess Ball

Fire Station

Pirates

Under Construction

Train Time

Horses

Ocean Animals

United States

Dinosaurs 

PICK A PUZZLE! 

Puzzles are a main attraction at our house. I've bought a lot of them and I have three top favorite brands for kids puzzles: Ravensburger, Crocodile Creek and Mudpuppy.  Puzzles are awesome Easter basket gifts because you can find them to match pretty much ANY theme and they are appropriate for all age levels when you scale by the number of pieces.  Holiday is 6 now and will sit and do anything from a 24 pc puzzle to a 200pc.  Anything beyond 200 pieces tends to lose her attention a little.  For 100 pieces and under, she will sit and put them together on her own pretty quickly.  For 200 pieces, she'll tend to start it in the morning, move on to other things and then come back and finish.  Puzzles are great STEM builders and really good for developing problem solving skills!  

Ravensburger:  While the other two brands I mentioned are purely for kids, Ravensburger makes quality puzzles from toddler to adults-- so the possibilities for themes and subjects are endless.  Ravensburger also makes a lot of Disney and other character themed puzzles-- so search for whatever you're looking for.  They are top quality, nice heavy pieces!  

CLICK HERE TO SHOP ALL RAVENSBURGER PUZZLES 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP ALL RAVENSBURGER PUZZLES 

Construction Crowd 60pc puzzle

Horse Dreams Glitter 100pc puzzle

Space puzzle 100pc puzzle

Mermaids and Dolphins Glitter 100pc puzzle

Beautiful Ocean 100pc puzzle

Thomas the Train Counting Trains 21pc puzzle

Pirate Battle 100pc puzzle

Land of the Giants (Dinosaur) 100 pc puzzle

Railway Station 60pc puzzle

Crocodile Creek: This is a super fun brand of kid puzzles.  All nice, heavy puzzle pieces.  The smaller pieced puzzles are all XL size and easy for little fingers. The puzzles in tubes are a puzzle PLUS a poster! They also have a series of truck puzzles where the box looks like a vehicle (pictured center in the collage below).

CLICK HERE TO SHOP ALL CROCODILE CREEK PUZZLES 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP ALL CROCODILE CREEK PUZZLES 

Unicorn Forest 36pc puzzle

Pirates Puzzle & Poster 200pc 

Land of Dinosaurs 24pc puzzle

Ocean Puzzle & Poster 200pc  

Recycling Truck 48pc puzzle

Super Heros 72pc puzzle

Fire Truck 12pc puzzle

Cinderella 72pc puzzle

Mermaids 72pc puzzle

Mudpuppy: Mudpuppy makes all kinds of wonderful items for children.  Again, their puzzle pieces are nice and heavy quality.  For your littlest ones, their puzzles in a pouch are SO cute and a nice, easy 12 pieces. There are lots more pouch puzzles than I have pictured below, but you can shop all pouch puzzles here. Also below are some of their Puzzle Stick Puzzles which you can see all here. Each set contains SIX 8pc stick puzzles! 

Forest Friends Jumbo Puzzle, 25pc

Princess Castle Pouch Puzzle, 12pc

Dinosaurs Jumbo Puzzle, 25pc

Construction Jumbo Puzzle, 25pc

On the Road 42pc Puzzle

Geometric Animals Puzzle Sticks Set

To the Rescue Jumbo Puzzle, 25pc

Under the Sea Pouch Puzzle, 12pc

Animals of the World Jumbo Puzzle, 25pc

IF YOU STILL NEED A THEME... 

If you really love themed baskets as much as I do-- there are SO many options here to mix these different products for a beautiful themed basket! 

Dinosaurs, Super Heros, Construction, Vehicles, Princess, Mermaids, Sea/Ocean, Outer Space and so many more! 

If you still need more ideas, there are SO many wonderful things on previous years' posts.  Last year was all broken down into awesome themes! 

THE WELL STYLED CHILD BUNNY BASKET BONANZA 2016

THE WELL STYLED CHILD BUNNY BASKET BONANZA 2014

THE WELL STYLED CHILD BUNNY BASKET BONANZA 2013

 

 

Dressed in Holiday Style: DISNEY Edition

We just got back from an AMAZING 8 days in Walt Disney World!  Our last trip was exactly two years ago in February 2015 and I've admittedly been planning Holiday's outfits for this trip since we returned! Of course I follow oodles of handmade boutiques and see Disney designs daily, but I think my own personal Disney style is slightly different from the norm.  I see a lot of people buying character prints.  And while I do have two of those in the group of outfits below, I really like bolder styles and patterns inspired by the characters.  I love having a sweet little outfit and bloomers that looks as if it was cut from the same cloth as Minnie's dress versus a dress with little Minnie characters on it.  I just love how adorable the bolder styles look in pictures versus having to look closely to see what character is on the dress.

With going at the beginning of February, we truly had beautiful weather for walking all day, every day through the parks!  We had to layer jackets and sweaters for the morning and evenings.  We also had one chilly day in the mix that we had to plan for as well (why you'll see some sweaters and long sleeves in the mix).  We didn't end up wearing every single one of these outfits, but this is what I packed for Holiday. 

I also wanted to make a note about shoes.  I have a lot of Mini Melissas paired with these outfits.  On both this trip and our trip in 2015, we had an identical experience.  Holiday wore Mini Melissa's the first day and they rubbed her feet too much and so she didn't wear them much after that (except for a few hours at dinner or special character meals).  I bought her a pair of super cute sparkly Pumas (pictured with the Little Mermaid outfit) that were great to switch out for.  I also put her in adorable knee highs and Livie and Luca Ruches on several days and they were perfectly adorable AND comfortable! 

This SUPER twirly Mouseketwirl top (fits more like a dress for Holiday) is from JK Heirloom. Bloomers are from Amazon (link below)  Shoes are Mini Melissa and the headband is from One Stop Bow Shop. Doll is from Little Sunshine Creations 

Even though I'm not super big on the little character prints, I HAD to make an exception for this exquisite set from Gabriella Design Studio.  It seriously makes me swoon every time I see Holiday in it.  In the morning and evening we paired it with this little Mini Boden sweater.  Knee socks are Little Jeffries, Shoes are Livie and Luca Ruches and headband is from Hanna Andersson 

Just a little closeup of this Beauty and the Beast fabric 

Another completely adorable swing top from JK Heirloom paired with polka dot leggings, also from JK Heirloom. Shoes are Ruches from Livie and Luca and Minnie Ears Headband is from The Disney Store.  Doll is Squishy Bee. 

Another amazing creation from JK Heirloom!  I paired these with bloomers I found on Amazon (link below).  To make it look more Belle-ish, I paired it with these Jason Wu for Mini Melissa Red Shoes and Red Headband from Hanna Andersson.  Cogsworth and Lumiere are from The Disney Store! 

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know I'm in LOVE with these character inspired dress up "aprons" from Ross and Rosie Designs.  I pair them with a simple tutu underneath (along with Monkey Bar Shorties)  for fullness and the little ruffle sleeve plain top is from Persnickety.  The boutique that made the Cinderella necklace is out of business, headband is from Hanna Andersson, shoes are Mini Melissa.  Jaq and Gus are from the Disney collection at JC Penney. 

This super sweet, completely comfy dress is from Sweet Petunia Clothing.  Mouse ears hat was a souvenir from our last Disney trip!  Paired this with Livie and Luca black Ruches and knee high socks from Little Jeffries. 

Another AMAZING dress-up Apron from Ross and Rosie Designs!  I paired this Mary Poppins Jolly Holiday inspired creation with Red Shoes (Jason Wu for Mini Melissa) along with a basic ruffle sleeve top from Persnickety Clothing Company.  Hat is from Hat and Mouse (Etsy/ Instagram).  Parasol and lace gloves from Amazon.  I also put the white bloomers under this set (link below). 

Adorable hand pained Snow White Tee from Chick-a-tee-Shu (Etsy) paired with glitter tutu from Cat and Jack, Target.  Headband is from One Stop Bow Show.  Shoes are Jason Wu for Mini Melissa

Another adorable dress-up apron, this one Rapunzel inspired, from Ross and Rosie Designs.  Ross and Rosie also made the hairpiece.  Shoes are Mini Melissa, Basic Ruffle Tee is from Persnickety.  We paired this with a simple tutu for fullness. 

In love with this Mickey Dress from Sweet Petunia Clothing.  We paired this with red Converse and black headband from Hanna Andersson. 

Totally cute and comfy outfit we wore for a travel day.  This Pearl (dress/top) is from Tessa's Trunk.  The cropped pants are Sweet Petunia Clothing.  Minnie/Mickey shoes are from Mini Melissa and headband is Hanna Andersson. 

Another totally adorable hand-painted shirt from Chick-a-Tee-Shu. Tutu is from the Hairbow Company, Shoes are Puma (Nordstrom) and headband is Hanna Andersson

We had one fairly chilly day during our Disney stay- we wore this top we bought on our first day at the Disney Store in Disney Springs.  The leggings are from GAP, headband is One Stop Bow Shop. 

GAP Mickey Leggings are still available here

Closeup of the adorable, glitter Mickey heads on these leggings. 

I took this outfit in anticipation of the chilly days the forecast was calling for when we were packing for the trip.  This super cute applique dress and leggings are from Lemon Loves Lime (fall 2016).  Boots are Ugg and Headband is from Hanna Andersson. 

This applique SO reminded me of Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom! 

I wanted to share these two different bloomers I found on Amazon.  We wore them with so many cute things on this trip.  They work so well with many of our boutique, hand-made tops and dresses.  They were so inexpensive, but so worth it! 

Longer Pantaloon Bloomer HERE

Shorter/ Brook's Treehouse Ruffle Bloomer HERE

Here are a few pictures of these super cute outfits in action! 

IMG_3775.JPG

Tis' the Season for Learning

For those of you who may not know, when I'm not decorating or shopping for the latest mini fashions, I homeschool Holiday.  Truth be told, homeschooling is the main gig happening at our house, all the rest is what happens in my free time (hence why I don't blog as often as I'd like to or plan to!)

While everyone is in the full throes of Christmas shopping, sometimes it's hard to wrap your brain around bringing even one more toy into your home.  Especially when the toy at the top of their list is nothing more than a cleverly marketed Nick Jr. commercial and you know your hard-earned money will end up in the pile of toys that are rarely played with though regularly competing for your sanity.  

Today I wanted to bring you a list of learning toys that I've found valuable in the classroom and play time.  There have been many moments when I'm teaching Holiday that I can tell she just needs something extra to grasp a concept.  I've been amazed at the power of educational toys (aka learning manipulatives) which can add a tactile and fun dimension to learning.  

Tis' the season for early literacy 

Holiday was an early reader- doing easy CVC books at age 3 and reading at a 3rd grade level before she was old enough to be in Kindergarten.  I think part of her reading success was due to the types of toys and resources I surrounded her with from the time she was a baby.  So much of early learning happens in play.  As a baby, I used these simple letter toys in the bath tub would would tell her what sound each letter makes as she played with them.  As early as 10 months, she could tell you the sounds for several letters. Here's a collection of early literacy for your tiny ones up through progressing leaders: 

1. Munchkins Bath Letters: This is a great, wonderful, first way to introduce little ones to letters and their sounds as they're playing in the bath. BUY IT HERE

2.  The Learning Journey Upper & Lower Case Letters Puzzle:  This is a great little puzzle to learn lowercase letters and letter sounds. BUY IT HERE

3.  Smart Snacks Alpha Pops: Holiday has had this set since around 1 year of age.  It was late 3's when she was really able to snap them together, but was a great resources with connecting uppercase letters to their "little matches." BUY IT HERE

4. Mudpuppy Magnetic Letters: I love these magnetic letters from Mudpuppy.  The picture is for the uppercase letters, but I highly recommend buying the set of lowercase letters as well.  There are two color-ways for each.  If you get the same color-way for both the uppercase and lowercase letters, the color/pattern of the uppercase letter will match the lowercase letters.  BUY UPPERCASE HERE.  BUY LOWERCASE HERE

5. Dick and Jane Early Readers Collection:  When kids are building a strong phonics foundation, Dick and Jane books are absolutely invaluable.  There are countless early readers with every recognizable character out there.  However, not all readers are created equally.  There is a reason that Dick and Jane stands the test of time.  The word repetition really helps young readers grasp the CVC words in combination with everyday, simple, high-frequency words.  I also love that many sentences would end in one word and the next sentence would begin with the same word.  I felt like this really helped Holiday recognize that the same word starting with an uppercase or lowercase letter was still the same word.  BUY IT HERE

6.  Learning Resources Goodie Games ABC Cookies: This game/ toy is all lowercase letters.  This is great for when kids are at the point of learning CVC words and word groups.  Simple games included to play with letters make learning deliciously fun! BUY IT HERE

7.  The Land of Nod Letter Scramble Kids Game: I LOVE this game!  I bought this for Holiday for Christmas this year.  Follow the purchase link to see how HUGE this game is-- these fun, over-sized plush pieces make learning even more engaging.  This is pretty much like the old-school Boggle game-- but way more fun and engaging for little ones.  This is a good game for one kids are starting to spell CVC words on their own and can be fun all the way through age 99! BUY IT HERE 

8. Leap Frog The Letter Factory DVD and Flashcards: This link is for a 3 pack DVD set and they are ALL excellent.  I can't recommend the Letter Factory DVD enough for learning letter sounds.  I specifically linked this set because it includes a set of flashcards that link back to the movie for each letter.  I think the tangible, visual reinforcement is really wonderful bonus.  The other two DVDs in this pac are also wonderful.  Going to School goes over all the basics- letters, counting to 20, Days of the Week, Months of the Year and more!  Talking Words is the next step after The Letter Factory-- it shows children how to blend letter sounds together along with "Sticky Letters" (aka Vowels) to make words! BUY IT HERE

9.  Hooked on Phonics PreK:  I am a HUGE believer in phonics as the best course for early reading.  Many schools and curriculums focus on memorizing long lists of sight words and high frequency words. However, I've seen first-hand, how valuable a strong phonics foundation is.  We have used Hooked on Phonics all the way through.  Holiday did the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics when she was 3, so I wouldn't go by age as much as what their literacy skill level is.  This Hooked on Phonics Pre-K is to develop letter recognition and learn all of the letter sounds.  Once your child knows all of their letters, letter sounds and STRONG lowercase recognition, you're ready to jump into the Kindergarten version of Hooked on Phonics.  BUY PRE-K HERE.  BUY KINDERGARTEN HERE 

Tis' the season for STEM development 

These days there are so many awesome, play-based, resources out there to develop Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Skills.  Here are some of our favorites: 

1.  Learning Resources Hundreds Board: If you have no other early math toy in your collection, have a good Hundreds Board.  I shopped around quite a bit for just the right hundreds board (would have loved an all wooden version) but this one was the best one I have found so far.  There are individual tiles 1-100.  In addition, two sets of colored translucent tiles (red and blue) are also included.  The colored tiles were really helpful when we were working on skip counting (2's, 5's and 10's).  There have just been more times than I can count that I've pulled out the hundreds board to teach a math concept whether it be to use as a number line or finding the nearest '5' when learning to tell time.  It's also a great visual resource for teaching multiplication. BUY IT HERE

2. Math Marks the Spot Game: Super, over-sized, math fun!  Roll the big, plush dice and solve the match problem. BUY IT HERE

3. Math Mat Challenge: We don't own this, but I have read a lot of reviews on this one and it looks like a super fun and engaging way to work on math! BUY IT HERE

4. Learning Resources Magnetic Apple Fractions: Many of the learning toys we have are also play food!  These apples get played with, regularly, just as play food.  However, they are such a good, tangible learning resource too.  When it came to teaching Holiday fractions to 1/4, no teaching was really necessary-- she immediately understood the concept because she had played with these apples so often.  They were also super useful when she learned to tell time to the quarter hour.  BUY IT HERE

5.  Bunny Peek-a-Boo Logic Game:  This is an awesome logic game from Smart Games for little ones (geared for ages 2+).  My neighbor lent this one to us a few years ago and I loved how this toy made Holiday think in a way that her other toys didn't.  Such a great way to work on STEM skills early on.  Cards are color-coded for difficulty so you can really scale for a variety of ages (I would say this one would be good through age 5).  BUY IT HERE

6.  3 in 1 Construction Bulldozer, Dump, Excavator Drill and Build: Kids are just attracted to cars and things that go.  This toy takes that concept to the next level by having your little engineer build this multi-functional dump truck/ excavator/ bull dozer first!  Super durable, can be built and re-built over and over.  Plus, it's a super fun truck to play with assembled.  BUY IT HERE

7.  Inchimals Blocks:  I really love these Inchimal Blocks from Fat Brain Toys.  12 blocks with the largest being a 12 inch giraffe and the smallest, a 1 inch lady bug.  This has been a great toy to get a sense for measurement, addition, estimating and figuring out how to get to 10.  Having a tangible learning manipulative that shows scale, the number and has an identifying animal gives children a variety of ways to latch onto mathematical concepts.  It also comes with a dry erase booklet and marker to work on number sentences using the blocks.  BUY IT HERE

8.  I Sea 10 Math Game: "New Math" has an early focus of getting to 10.  Many early math activities focus on what we must add to numbers 1-9 to get to 10 and what combination of numbers will get you there.  This game is a super fun skill builder that develops an overall numbers sense.  Fish are turned over to reveal a number.  As soon as a combination of 10 is on the board, the first person to should "I See 10!" gets to keep those cards.  BUY IT HERE 

9. Ocean Raiders Math Board Game: There are a variety of ways to play this fun addition game.  Whether adding single numbers, double digit numbers, numbers without carrying and numbers with carrying.  BUY IT HERE 

10.  My First Lab Mini Duo-Scope Microscope: This was on Holiday's Christmas List this year and reviews as a great, little first microscope!  I'm excited about adding a new dimension to our classroom and learning activities!  BUY IT HERE 

11. Lunar Telescope: This was also on Holiday's Christmas List this year! She loves outer space and what better way to bring the galaxy a little closer. BUY IT HERE

12. Magna-Tiles: We love Legos for STEM development, but Magna-Tiles are really more open ended in my opinion.  My husband grew up on the mission field in Chile and Guatemala and a suitcase of Legos were his main (and one of his only) toys through childhood.  He often comments while doing Legos with Holiday that today's Lego sets aren't what they used to be.  Where Legos used to be almost all bricks, now there are lots of specialized, large molded pieces that are very specific to each, individual set.  Out of all the magnetic block options, Magna-Tiles are far superior to its competitors.  They are a completely open-ended toy, fun for all ages. BUY IT HERE

13. Design and Drill: There are several versions of Design and Drill (some are less gender specific), but we have found this to be a great little game to get the brain thinking and the drilling is just SO much fun for kids.  Holiday has really enjoyed this toy over the past year.  BUY IT HERE

14. Robot Turtles Game for Little Programmers: My husband, David, is a Senior Network Engineer/ Architect at Google and this board game has been a big hit for he and Holiday to play together. It teaches computational thinking in a simple way for little ones to comprehend.  You can start playing this game as early as age 4.  There's also an add-on pack for more advanced programming challenges.  BUY IT HERE

15. Trucky3 Logic Challenge Game: Not all little ones will have the attention span to sit and figure out a logic came.  HOWEVER, Trucky3 is a game changer for lots of those kids!  For ages 3-8, this challenge is more difficult than it looks!  You must fit specific shapes into the beds of each truck without any shapes sticking up over the bed of the truck.  Such a fun and engaging logic and STEM activity for your vehicle lovers! BUY IT HERE

16.  Camelot Jr. Logic Game: Camelot Jr. is much the same concept as Trucky3 and the next level of difficulty after Bunny Peek-a-Boo listed above.  A great logic challenge!  BUY IT HERE

Tis' the Season for Telling Time 

Telling Time is getting its own mini section apart from other STEM resources as I just finished teaching Holiday how to tell time to the minute.  We have loved and used each of these, daily, during our math time.  

Eeboo Telling Time Game: This game is AWESOME!  Four individual clocks are included and can be played with up to 4 players or can be scaled to just a single player.  For Holiday play alone, she plays in rounds-- I set out each of the four clocks in front of her and put a different time card above each clock for her to set the correct time on each clock.  Her goal is always to get 4/4 correct for each round.  The deck of time cards is color coded so you can included cards for telling time to the hour, half hour, nearest 5 or by the minute. BUY IT HERE

Mindware Owl Clock: This clock has been invaluable in teaching time.  The back of it is chalkboard so you can either draw the hands on the clock and have the child write to time below, or you can write the time and have them draw the hands on the clock.  The front of the clock has a little moving window that helps with the "Secret Code" (aka counting the hour numbers by 5's to figure out minutes).  It also includes cards if you want to use it as a game to set the right time.  Plus, it doesn't hurt that it has a vintage look to it and is adorable in our Homeschool Room or Playroom!  BUY IT HERE

Flik Flak Swiss Watches for Kids: I'm in LOVE with these Flik Flak watches and was so happy to find them.  Holiday's was really helpful while she was learning to tell time and is such a good reminder now as well.  You'll notice that around the outside of the clock face, the "Secret Code" for figuring out minutes is also included.  There are TONS of options from prints to solid colors to choose from.  They are a nice, lightweight watch and not at all bulky for little ones to wear.  BUY IT HERE

Tis' The Season for Geography 

These are all such great resources for not only learning about our world and country, but also to learn individual facts for each state.  Lots of fun while your family is traveling or on road trips, to explore your destination or towns you'll be passion through-- or even to learn a little more about the state you call "Home." BUY IT HERE

1. The 50 States Big Book: This is a beautiful, BIG, colorful book that has a layout dedicated to each state with lots of fun and practical facts. BUY IT HERE

2. Atlas of Adventures: This is a wonderful, highly rated book to discover the wonders of the world.  A good way to grasp continents, countries and the major landmarks and cultural highlights for each.  BUY IT HERE

3. Janod Magnetic USA Map: I've been through several USA Map puzzles and activities and I really think this Janod one is the best!  It is nice, heavy duty and magnetic.  I love that the individual state pieces are the right shape for their state (versus just a puzzle piece).  This whole map, assembled, can also be hung up without pieces falling off.  The only drawbacks is that Alaska isn't to scale.  Also, a few of the northern New England states are combined onto one piece. BUY IT HERE

4. The 50 States Activity Book: This activity book is a wonderful compliment to the 50 States Book-- definitely worth having!  It also includes a beautiful pull-out, full color poster of the USA, all the state flags as well as all of the presidents through 2016.  BUY IT HERE

5. Globe: I researched quite awhile for the right globe for our homeschool room and this Advantus Desktop Globe was the winner.  I have been more than happy with our purchase.  It is really a beautiful, high quality globe and a great value for the money.  The colors and bright, nice contrast to make it easily readable and mountain ranges are raised.  BUY IT HERE

6. Land of Nod Road Trip Soft Wall Map:  This is a really fun way to learn the states and serves as a great room decor piece as well!  The felt USA map comes with a set of velcro state names as well as a separate set of velcro state capitols.  In addition, there are several fun landmark pieces to put on the map as well.  Pieces like "I Live Here," the statue of liberty, etc. BUY IT HERE

7.  Me on the Map Book: This is a great book for little ones to begin to comprehend their place in the universe.  We don't just live in a house, but in a town, a city, a state, a country, a continent and a planet.  This is a great, little, first geography book for any little one.  BUY IT HERE

8. Alex Toys USA Map in the Tub:  I have always been a big proponent of incorporating learning into play time and this USA map puzzle for the bath is a great way to introduce the 50 States!  BUY IT HERE

9. MAPS Book: This is, by no means, a comprehensive atlas, but rather a wonderful collection of 52 beautiful world maps to pique a child's interest in the world around them and in geography-- especially for a child who already really likes maps!  There's also an accompaniment activity book that can be purchased separately!   BUY IT HERE

tis' the season for anatomy 

1.  Janod Body Magnetic Set: This is a favorite toy at our house and super useful in our homeschool room.  This set comes with cards in a variety of languages, but rest assured, English is included as well.  This is a wonderful learning tool for children to realize there's SO much going on inside their amazing, little bodies!  There are pieces to make both a boy and a girl, full skin bodies, skeleton, muscular/ circular system as well as organ systems.  This is a great learning tool!  I often buy this along with the Outside-In book as a gift! BUY IT HERE

2.  Outside-In Lift the Flaps Book: This book is an awesome way for kids to being to understand how magnificent their bodies truly are and how different body systems work together.  BUY IT HERE

American Girl for Newbies: How We Fell in Love and Why it's a Favorite Brand

Rewind (like old-school rewind on the VHS) back to the year 2000, sit back, get comfy and I will tell you about the earliest days of my love affair with American Girl!  

I had never before heard of American Girl, but two things happened, rather simultaneously, to put American Girl on my radar.  First, I was nannying for two of the cutest little girls who each had a single American Girl doll they adored. Getting and having this doll was a BIG deal!  At the same time, my sister was pregnant with my first niece, Zoe Faith. As soon as my sister found out she was having a girl, her Mother-In-Law, Von, went out and purchased an American Girl Bitty Baby and just about every Bitty Baby outfit and accessory in existence at the time!  Von was an elementary school teacher for many years outside of Chicago- home of the flag ship American Girl store and was well versed in all things American Girl, but was needing a little girl to shop for.  

At the time, my sister could not wrap her mind around why anyone would buy a baby an $80 doll (let alone a baby who was still in utero!)  For each holiday, more Bitty Baby outfits and accessories would be added to Zoe's growing collection.  The adorable pink and blue boxes all sat, stacked and unopened on the top shelf of her closet.  By the time Zoe turned 3, my sister said she FINALLY got it!  Around the age of 3, is when Zoe's love for doll play really took off.  She now had a baby brother and loved being able to care for Bitty Baby like she saw her Mama take care of baby brother.  Changing Bitty Baby's clothes was always a highlight, and now she had LOTS of clothes and accessories for anything she could imagine with Bitty Baby.

When Holiday came along in 2010, I had already fallen in love with American Girl and my mom bought Holiday her first Bitty Baby for her first Christmas when she was just 2 months old!  I wanted to build her collection through the early years when she didn't really care what she got for birthdays or Christmas. And slowly, I started buying little Bitty Baby outfits and accessories: A heart outfit for Valentine's Day, an Easter dress tucked away in her Easter basket, Christmas jammies in her stocking.  So by the time Holiday was 2 and 3, she had her own little American Girl collection started and has LOVED doll play from that day forward. Here are some pictures of her from 6 months to 1 year, already loving on her Bitty Baby! 

Her first time having lunch at the American Girl Bistro for cousin Zoe's birthday! 

Her first time having lunch at the American Girl Bistro for cousin Zoe's birthday! 

 

Over the years, American Girl has become as much of a hobby for me as it is for Holiday.  We have now turned one of our spare bedrooms into "The Doll Room," and Pappy constructed a 6 ft tall American Girl doll house for Holiday last year.  I'll share pictures later.  But first, I wanted to explain why we love this brand so much: 

Quality:  American Girl Dolls and accessories are made with superior quality.  They are expensive, there's no getting around that, but when you hold the dolls and accessories in your hands and compare them to the Target or Walmart versions, you GET why they're more valuable.  When my Grandmother was still living, we would all go back to Pennsylvania at least once a year and she often got to see the girls' dolls.  Having sewed many clothes herself through the years, she just couldn't get over the quality, workmanship and attention to detail on the little Bitty Baby outfits.  One of my last, living memories of her was when we had all the Grandkids Facetime her on Christmas Eve.  Holiday was holding her Bitty Baby in a new outfit that was purchased with Christmas money my Grandma had sent for her.  Holiday wanted her to see the new outfit and my Grandmother commented how special Bitty Babies are and that they're not like other dolls!  I think her love for Bitty Baby has made me love Bitty even more!  

 The Well Styled Child blog originally started out of my love for boutique children's clothing and I know it's a passion many of my readers share.  American Girl is very much like the "boutique brand" of doll clothing! Sure you can find super cute kids clothes at Target, but the quality, workmanship and details aren't the same as your Persnickety or Matilda Jane.  

Timeless & Classic:  The main reason I love boutique girls' clothing is also one of the main reasons I love American Girl. Denise Marchis, the founder of Matilda Jane Clothing said of her beloved clothing line, "It's all about keeping a little girl...a little girl."  This is SO true of American Girl.  We live in a society and culture that pressures little girls to grow up as quickly as possible.  By the time they're 5 or 6 and entering school, it's time to say goodbye to the "baby shows" in favor of Descendants, High School Musical and the like.  It's time to move across the store from the age-appropriate toddler section to the miniature versions of what 20 year old girls are wearing.  Dolls are thrown into the yard sale pile while new collections of Monster High Dolls line their dressers.  Over the past two years, I've lost count of how many little girls (under age 8) I've seen dressed up as zombie cheerleaders. I'll be honest with you, I can't wrap my brain around that!  I've been so intentional about allowing Holiday to enjoy age-appropriate things for as long as possible.  At having just turned 6, she has a lot more in common with 4 year old Daniel Tiger than she does with 13 or 18 year old (depending on the season) Carly Shay from the popular Disney show, iCarly. So for us, American Girl fits WAY more into our vision for her play and media influences than what might be popular for other little girls her age.  I love timeless toys!  I love that American Girl reflects what little girls her age have been playing with for centuries.  No need to re-invent the wheel for us! 

Holiday with her 1950's era Maryellen BeForever American Girl Doll along with a coordinating girl outfit also from American Girl 

Holiday with her 1950's era Maryellen BeForever American Girl Doll along with a coordinating girl outfit also from American Girl 

American Girl Bitty Baby on her tricycle in her (retired) birthday outfit!  A perfect example of timeless, classic toys and keeping little girls little! 

American Girl Bitty Baby on her tricycle in her (retired) birthday outfit!  A perfect example of timeless, classic toys and keeping little girls little! 

Investment and Resale Value: Nothing at American Girl is cheap!  Not just in terms of quality, but also in pricing!  However, just like boutique children's clothing, American Girl products that are taken care of, retain their value over time.  I know a lot of moms don't want to commit to the price of American Girl without knowing that their child will love it, so they start with Our Generation (Target), Journey Dolls (ToysRUs) or MyLife (Walmart).  If your budget is very limited and it's what you can afford, by all means, provide your child this wholesome play opportunity however you are able!  However, if your budget does allow some splurges in this area- I think that less, well-chosen, high quality items will produce more quality play time.  At the end of the day, if you splurge on American Girl and your child rarely touches it, you can easily resale it on the many American Girl BST boards!  For items that are in excellent condition, you can expect to get at least 75% of your initial investment back and even more for retired items (American Girl retires items constantly which lends itself to a strong resale market).  There are a select few Our Generation items that I've found to be okay in quality, but for the most I prefer the American Girl brand. I'll also share tips at the end for getting the best deals at American Girl.  

Historical and Educational Value:  I'll break down the different American Girl Doll lines below, but my favorite line from American Girl (and what truly attracted me to the brand to begin with) is their line of historical dolls, currently referred to as the BeForever line.  Holiday loved her Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins but started to get interested in the larger, 18 inch dolls right around her 4th birthday.  This was mostly fueled by trips to our local American Girl store and also because she fell in love with the Samantha movie- which is a very well-done movie based on Samantha Parkington, an American Girl character from the Edwardian Era (1890's-1910). While the BeForever characters are fictional, the history and details surrounding their collections and stories are right out of your American History book!  This connection to the American past is one of the most endearing and enduring qualities of American Girl and its legacy.  I'll talk more about the BeForever line below. 

Open-Ended Play Value:  When deciding what toys to bring into our home, choosing toys that are open-ended in their play value has always been at the top of my priority list.  Toys that are open-ended are toys that can be played with in a different way every time you pick them up.  There are countless ways for your imagination to use them and pretend with them.  This isn't only a nice concept, it's important developmental work for children.  Providing open-ended toys enables you to capitalize on your children's play time-- it's doing so much more than merely keeping them busy and occupied. Plato once said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.  Doll play is extremely open-ended. Anything that can happen in a child's real life can be re-created with dolls.  Most anything you purchase from American Girl can really lend itself to open-ended play.  However, when I'm choosing which doll items to purchase, I still gage how "open" a toy is.  For example, Target released an adorable Ice Cream Truck in their Our Generation Doll line early in 2016.  I rushed out and bought it right away.  It is cute and it is a good value for the money considering the amount of accessories that come with it.  However, over time, I've realized this toy is extremely limited in its play value.  For starters, all of the (mostly hand-held) ice cream/ popsicles/ sno-cones that come with it are super cute and well made, but it's nearly impossible to get those items to balance in the dolls' hand.  Also, it's hard to think of ways to play with this toy outside of the dolls lining up for their ice cream.  Contrast this with Maryellen's Diner from American Girl.  Where dolls can sit at the counter, in the booth or "dance" over by the jukebox.  Girls can easily get behind the diner and interactively cook and serve.  The food items are all things that sit on the trays/ plates/ counter.  The Diner is a truly open-ended toy whereas the ice cream truck is quite limited.  It's also difficult to stand a doll in the ice cream truck and once you do-- it's very difficult for anyone to move anything around from inside the truck.  Consequently, the ice cream truck is rarely played with, but the diner is played with constantly.  

Navigating American Girl Doll Lines 

Bitty Baby 

Bitty Baby is a 15 inch doll line from American Girl that represents infants.  Their outfits and accessories represent a baby from newborn through 1 year-ish.  They have hard heads, legs and arms but their bodies are soft.  There are lots of accessories, big and small.  From cribs and car seats to changing table and Bitty Check-Up sets.  Bitty Baby was Holiday's first American Girl doll that she fell in love with and is still a huge favorite.  Around 4, she became very interested in the 18" dolls and Bitty sat for a big, but now at 6, Bitty Baby gets LOTS of regular love and attention!  She even has several Bitty baby items on her Christmas list this year.  Bitty Baby is a great first doll for any little one!  They currently run right around $60 and you get to select which onesie to bring your Bitty Baby home in.  There are a variety of skin/hair/eye color options for your baby.  You can check them all out here.   

Bitty Twins 

The Bitty Twins line are also 15" dolls with hard heads, legs, arms and soft bodies.  Bitty Twins have a little hair (long enough for pig tails) and their line represents the toddler years.  Bitty Twins have recently been phased out in lieu of the new Wellie Wisher line.  We LOVE Bitty Twins (Holiday has a set of blonde and brunette girl twins) and are sad to see their line go.  Bitty Twins also have boy options which are nice if you want a little brother or have a little guy who would love a doll of his own!  You can still buy the Bitty Twins dolls here on the American Girl website.  If you click on the gender set dolls you want, you can customize hair/skin/eye color for each of your twins.  Unfortunately, all of their outfits and accessories have been retired.  However, Bitty Twins and Bitty Baby clothes are completely interchangeable (since they are both 15 inch dolls) so you can still buy Bitty Baby items for Bitty Twins.  

Wellie Wishers

Wellie Wishers are a brand new line for American Girl that released at the beginning of summer 2016.  They are a 12 inch doll with completely hard bodies.  So all of the Wellie Wishers dolls, clothes and accessories are exclusive to their line and will not fit the bigger dolls.  These dolls are strategically marketed to girls in the 3-7 year old age group and American Girl has done an excellent job of creating a line that really resonates with this age demographic.  Wellie Wishers are also less expensive than the 18" dolls coming in at $60/ doll.  With having so much first-hand experience with American Girl, my take on Wellie Wishers is this:  they have beautiful faces and are very well-received by their target demographic.  However, I have been disappointed with their wig quality and I don't feel like their clothing is quite on par with any of the other clothing/doll lines from American Girl. The outfits they come with are cute enough, but the extra outfits available for purchase are lacking, in my opinion.  That being said, Holiday LOVES them and plays with them constantly.  They make excellent little sisters to the 18" dolls.  Bitty Baby and Twins frequented the little sister role before Wellie Wishers came along, however,  the scale of Bitty to the 18" dolls really isn't a very good fit.  Any time we travel, Holiday always wants to take one of her AG dolls along and I've realized that Wellie Wishers are much easier to travel with than a regular 18" doll. They are smaller, more compact and lightweight.  Plus, I don't mind the fact that we're toting around a less expensive doll when there's always a chance of the doll or her many accessories getting left behind somewhere. 

BeForever 

BeForever, as mentioned above, is American Girl's original line of historical dolls.  This is the line that began that great empire so many of us love today.  The originator and founder of American Girl, Pleasant Rowland, had the idea for Pleasant Company (original name) after visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  She came away from that trip wanting to publish a series of children's book that taught history while inspiring girls through the lives of their heroines.  She simultaneously wanted to launch a doll company with beautiful, detailed dolls and accessories so girls could re-enact those stories.   From that dream, the three first dolls were released, Samantha, Kirsten and Molly.  From there the dream has grown and expanded into a multi-faceted brand.  

The BeForever dolls are an 18" doll, each representing a different era of American history.  While the characters are fictional, there is great effort placed into making the stories, dolls and their accessories as true to their place in history as possible.  As mentioned earlier, this is the line of dolls that made me fall in love with American Girl.  I love the connection to the past and the valuable lessons girls can learn from history.  In an article by Michele Willdgen, she says of the historical collection, "The story themes and subjects, the historical moment and the doll's accessories all aim to create a character who embodies an iconic time in American history.  The goal is a girl who is accurate and alluring at once, familiar enough that a child identifies with her and enticingly different, so that a child wants to learn more."  

As a Homeschool Mom, I've really seen the benefit of the BeForever stories.  When we were studying the early American colonies, we pulled out the Felicity movie.  While discussing the role of the Native Americans and how they were living in America prior to the colonists, we talked about Kaya's story.  The BeForever line makes history come alive.  It takes history from the textbook to girls' bedrooms and playrooms and into her heart in a way that reading alone cannot achieve. 

While several BeForever dolls have been retired over the years, these are the dolls currently available for purchase: 

Kaya, 1764 Pre-American Colonization 

Josefina Montoya, 1824- New Mexico, Post Spanish Independence 

Addy Walker, 1864- Civil War Era 

Samantha Parkington, 1904- Edwardian Era 

Rebecca Rubin, 1914- early 1900's, daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants 

Kit Kitteridge, 1934- Depression Era 

Maryellen Larkin, 1954- Fabulous Fifties 

Melody Ellison, 1964- Civil Rights Era 

Julie Albright, 1974, 1970's Era 

Girl of the Year 

The girl of the year is an exclusive doll released on January 1st of each year and only available for that given year.  GOTY are modern American Girls with a variety of present-day stories.  The GOTY collection generally includes a series of books, several outfits and both large and small accessories and/or furniture pieces.  The current doll of the year is Lea Clark- a 10 year old girl from St. Louis, Missouri who goes on a wild adventure in the Brazilian rainforest.  You can view Lea Clark and her line here.  Lea Clark and her line will all be retired on December 31, 2016 or until her items sell out through the Christmas shopping season. 

How To Save on American Girl 

1.  Sign up for emails here

2.  Request a catalog here:  There are often print coupons included

3.  Sign up for AG Rewards:  This is a new system that just launched in Summer 2016.  For every $200 dollars spent at American Girl, you can get $10 in rewards, awarded each month- up to $50 on any given month. 

4. Shop American Girl Costco:  Costco often has AG gift cards ($100 worth of gift cards for $80).  This is a smart way to shop as it is essentially saving you 20%. Even better if there's a sale and you can use your gift cards for additional savings.  

Costco also has several American Girl dolls and products at a discount.  Currently at time of writing this (November, 2016), there is a Samantha Holiday set with her winter coat and Christmas dress.  There is also a Bitty Baby with several outfits and accessories.  In addition to small pets (cats, dogs), a large horse and several books and craft sets.

5.  Watch for Sales. Check in on the website often or follow some of the American Girl BST boards on Facebook-- all good ways to stay in the know on sales.  Last year, I purchased gift cards at Costco and used them during a 20% off total purchase sale before Christmas- the equivalent of 40% off total purchase.  

6.  Buy Second-Hand.  Between Ebay and B/S/T boards, there is a vibrant resale market for American Girl products.  I also know lots of people who have stumbled upon great deals at their local Goodwills and places like that.  In addition, I check my local Craigslist every week or so to see what new AG products have been added!  You never know where you might stumble across a great deal! You may run into dolls who need a little TLC.  Thankfully, there are loads of Youtube videos and blogs out there on how to refresh dolls.  You can also send dolls to the American Girl Doll Hospital for just about anything.  The price list is online so you can determine if it's worth it to have the doll fixed or just replaced. 

MY TOP AMERICAN GIRL PICKS

DOLLS:  Which dolls you purchase are obviously based on your child's preference.  Even with an ever-growing collection of 18" dolls, Holiday still plays with her Bitty Babies very regularly. Bitty Baby is a great doll for all girls to have, in my opinion.  My niece, Emme, is 8.  She has several 18" American Girl dolls, but recently received her first Bitty Baby and is in love!

  My personal favorite dolls are Maryellen, Samantha and Kit.  Maryellen Larkin is a 1950's era doll.  She and her collection always remind me of my grandmothers and the decade my parents were born in.  Kit Kittredge is the depression era doll.  She also reminds me of the many stories my grandmothers told me about their own childhoods-- stories that I love to pass onto Holiday as we play with Kit and her furniture/ accessories.  Samantha Parkington is the quintessential American Girl Doll.  She has the largest collection of any of the dolls and just represents a time period of all of my favorite L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott heroines. 

ACCESSORIES:  I personally think it's smarter to build an American Girl Doll collection by actually buying clothing and accessories for your doll rather than only buying additional dolls.  The dolls' play value is more limited when you don't have anything to go with them or seasonal outfits to change them into.  Buying more dolls with nothing to go with them isn't going to increase play value or play time-- it's just going to be another doll lined up on the dresser.

DOLL CLOTHES:  Because Holiday does have a lot of doll outfits, I see every little girl's eyes light up in the doll room.  Changing their clothes is the number one way all the girls love to play when they come to our house.  Even all of Holiday's high school babysitters are in heaven when they get to "play" in the doll room!  Again, I abide by the rule that fewer quality items is better than just having a lot of cheaper stuff.  I know some people have a hard time getting over the cost of the American Girl Doll outfits,  however, from a collector's standpoint, the outfits are often much more valuable than the dolls.  I have purchased several Our Generation outfits just because they were cute and inexpensive, however I've had issues with every last one.  They just aren't cut for American Girl dolls.  I'm sure there are some that work just fine, but I've found myself having to cut the sleeves of the jacket to work or the boots being unusable because they won't fit on an AG doll foot. You also have to be careful with some of the cheaper doll clothes which can stain and bleed onto the doll's "skin" and bodies.  I have just quit buying anything other than American Girl brand for doll clothing.  Watch for sales and stock up when they have them!

One disclaimer- some of the American Girl outfits are made with delicate silk and lace-- they are gorgeous and period correct.  However, the Velcro on nearly every clothing piece is the enemy! 

FURNITURE AND LARGER ACCESSORIES:  If you're in the market for a larger accessory, I would suggest buying a doll bed first.  This is a main way all little girls love to play with their dolls.  All of the AG doll beds are gorgeous (Samantha's and Kit's are my favorites!) Kit's retired bed is actually my preference over the newer model.  I purchased a brand new, retired Kit bed on Amazon for around the same cost as the current Kit bed. 

Another favorite large accessory is Maryellen's Diner.  It is pricey, but the play value on this piece (as discussed above) is SO open-ended.  For other accessories, consider buying around what your daughter is really into.  Holiday rides English Horseback-- consequently, we have the stable and two AG horses that are played with daily in our home. I actually purchased the Our Generation stable a few years back.  It is pink and adorable!  However, in order for the big horses to fit, we have to use the corral.  The quality of the Our Generation corral is terrible, it constantly pops off (though the horse barn itself is well made).  Consequently, we have combined the corral from the AG set to the front of the OG horse barn.  It works for our play and looks cute, it's just another example of why I prefer to buy American Girl brand over the less expensive options which are lacking in quality.  

Over the past few years, we've collected the accessory/ furniture sets for the activities/ lessons Holiday participates in on a weekly basis.  In addition to horseback riding, we have an American Girl piano, gymnastics set and ballet set.  Often in the afternoons, the dolls are all dressed and set up at their various lessons!  

  Any of the school sets also make great open-ended accessories.  Maryellen has a school set that you can see here.  It features an easel with chalkboard, map, pointer and flashcards.  Nearly all of the BeForever Dolls have a school outfit and accessories.  The TrulyMe collection has several school sets and accessories as well! If you're a collector like me, I have tracked down retired Samantha school desks (2) for Holiday for Christmas.  In general, my rule of thumb is to always buy accessories that are open-ended, that can be played with in a variety of ways.  

A new item this season for American Girl is the Gourmet Kitchen Set!  Another amazing, open-ended toy.  We actually already owned Kit's retired Cookstove, but we added the new refrigerator recently added to Maryellen's collection.  The refrigerator is darling with tons of nostalgic flare and amazing food accessories!  (Note:  the quality of the included TV trays is subpar in my opinion, but don't let that detract you from the main attraction which is certainly the fridge!) 

For the Bitty Baby collection, the Doll Cradle and Changing Table are absolutely gorgeous, wooden, heirloom quality pieces.  I'm a big fan of retired Bitty Baby clothing items and have found quite a few on eBay.  I love American Girl Wiki- you can research all retired items so you know exactly what you want to look for on eBay.  I have been fortunate to find all of the ones I've looked for-- generally all under the $40 range.  Bitty Babies, through 2010, came with Bitty Bear which is an adorable accessory.  The older Bitty Baby clothing sets almost always came with a toy for Bitty Baby and accessories for Bitty Bear as well-- so you can really get a lot of value for the money with the retired sets!  This is an example of a retired Bitty Baby Halloween set we have-- look at all the great extras that came with it! 

WELLIE WISHERS:  As stated above, I'm not as crazy about the quality of the Wellie Wishers collection.  It is very common for Bitty Baby and Bitty Twin items to be made out of plastic.  However, they are generally a very heavy duty plastic, but with Wellie Wishers being smaller, their accessories aren't as heavy duty, in my opinion.  A friend was just telling me her daughter received the WW table and chair set and it constantly tips over.  It's just not ideal for a doll line geared towards younger girls.  That being said, I am highly impressed with the Wellie Wishers Playhouse.  We have seen and played with it many times in the store and I did purchase it for Christmas.  

PETS:  The American Girl pets are also totally adorable and all of the little girls in our family seem to love them!  

OUR DOLL ROOM 

I will share some pictures of our Doll Room.  Many of you know of my love for decorating-- this room is NOT decorated (yet) but it is organized well!  

This is the entrance door coming into the Doll Room, Wellie Wishers are there in the corner

This is the entrance door coming into the Doll Room, Wellie Wishers are there in the corner

Wellie Wishers are currently right inside the door.  Planning to put the Wellie Wishers Playhouse here after Christmas 

Wellie Wishers are currently right inside the door.  Planning to put the Wellie Wishers Playhouse here after Christmas 

Ikea Expedit series is the holy grail of doll room storage!  Each of the historical dolls have their own plastic container with their shoes and accessories- like headbands, purses, jewelry, things like that.  There are also large plastic containers for  all of the Truly Me shoes, Bitty Baby shoes, etc.  This is also where we keep furniture pieces that she can swap in and out of her AG doll house.  To the right is the carriage (the horse can attach to it) and the AG stable combined with the Our Generation horse barn 

Ikea Expedit series is the holy grail of doll room storage!  Each of the historical dolls have their own plastic container with their shoes and accessories- like headbands, purses, jewelry, things like that.  There are also large plastic containers for  all of the Truly Me shoes, Bitty Baby shoes, etc.  This is also where we keep furniture pieces that she can swap in and out of her AG doll house.  To the right is the carriage (the horse can attach to it) and the AG stable combined with the Our Generation horse barn 

This is the dollhouse my dad lovingly built for Holiday last year (with lots of help from Mimi too!)  Although he added a ton of custom details, he used the Ana White Dollhouse plans that you can find here.  The estimated cost to build, according to the site is $100, however, we found it to be more in the $200-300 range, depending on the quality of materials used.  

Y'all know I'm OBSESSED with the Carolina Activity Table and Carts from Pottery Barn Kids.  It's SO super useful for doll play so whatever Holiday is really focused on can be elevated and set apart to a great play height.  In the left cart is all of her American Girl Spa accessories while the right bin houses all of her AG pets and their accessories. 

Y'all know I'm OBSESSED with the Carolina Activity Table and Carts from Pottery Barn Kids.  It's SO super useful for doll play so whatever Holiday is really focused on can be elevated and set apart to a great play height.  In the left cart is all of her American Girl Spa accessories while the right bin houses all of her AG pets and their accessories. 

This is our wardrobe for historical dolls and the TrulyMe clothes as well.  It's hard to tell from this picture, but I use these wooden hangers I purchase here.  The bookcase is from Target (find it here) and it's a piece I already had, otherwise I would've bought the taller version.  More storage can never hurt for accessories or items not played with as often.  In order to hang the clothes- I used small, thin tension rods from Home Depot, though I think this one could work well.  You just need to get one that is at least the width of the interior of the bookcase, so double check your measurements if you plan to order.  Also, I felt like the weight of the clothes on the tension rod would be a constant issue, making it fall, so I secured both ends of the tension rod (attaching to the bottom of the shelf over each rod) with these cup hooks.  

All of the beautiful hats on the top shelf are from the BeForever line.  I have them displayed on top of table card holders I found at Michaels.  They are metal, heavy and weighted.  They do tip over sometimes with there's a lot of play going on, but I love how they look displayed on the wardrobe.  

Inside the closet of the doll room, we have all things Bitty Baby-- we call it the Nursery!  

Bitty Baby's Toy Box is on the far right.  Retired Bitty Baby crib (though the current Bitty Baby cradle available is darling).  Bitty Baby's Changing Table in the center.  

Bitty Baby's Toy Box is on the far right.  Retired Bitty Baby crib (though the current Bitty Baby cradle available is darling).  Bitty Baby's Changing Table in the center.  

On the right side we have Bitty's Travel Seat another heirloom wooden cradle I've had for years and a wooden doll high chair.  

On the right side we have Bitty's Travel Seat another heirloom wooden cradle I've had for years and a wooden doll high chair.  

We keep all of the Bitty Clothes here in the nursery.  You can get a better look at the wooden doll hangers here in this picture.  SUPER TIP:  Some of the more delicate, silk doll dresses like to slip off the hangers.  To keep this from happening, I use the itty bitty rubber hair bands.  I wrap them around the ends of the hanger arms and it creates a little grip to keep them from slipping off!  

We keep all of the Bitty Clothes here in the nursery.  You can get a better look at the wooden doll hangers here in this picture.  SUPER TIP:  Some of the more delicate, silk doll dresses like to slip off the hangers.  To keep this from happening, I use the itty bitty rubber hair bands.  I wrap them around the ends of the hanger arms and it creates a little grip to keep them from slipping off!  

I hope you enjoyed our little tour.  I will do an updated post once I decorate the Doll Room as well as the Doll House itself!  

Feel free to ask any American Girl questions (please don't ask for coupon codes) below and I will do my best to answer all of your questions!  Also be sure to visit us on Facebook!