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Check out these whimsical, hand-knit and fair trade rattles, puppets and toys from Yellow Label Kids! Just way too cute, your tiny tot can gum and drool on soft, homemade rattles in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, rainbows, and more, providing worry-free tactile stimulation!

Each item in the collection is handmade by an artisan, who is paid living wages in accordance with Fair Trade practices. From clothing & blankets to toys & dolls, each item is unique, and make wonderful baby shower gifts! “Mom’s” favorite? These adorable rattles (above) in the shape of a bird or owl. So sweet!

To learn more about Yellow Label Kids, or to order, please visit www.yellowlabelkids.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Educational Board Games

Throughout the history of civilization, games and toys have been used for children’s education and development. They have also been important for adult social interaction and entertainment. Board games in particular have been played in most cultures; several examples have been found pictured in ancient Egyptian tomb frescoes, in early Aztec ruins, and in ancient China historical records. Board games use counters or pieces that are instrumental for movement across a board that has markings or designs on the surface, and each game usually has a starting point and ending point. Board games usually involve some level of skill, strategy, and critical thinking, and they often teach and reinforce basic learning concepts of language, mathematics, science, geography, history, and more.

In addition to rudimentary subject learning, educational board games enhance social and emotional development, help develop hand-eye coordination, and assist understanding of spatial relationships. They also encourage understanding of complex construction elements, cause-and-effect relationships, and basic world and life concepts. Most board games require focus, patience, sharing, social interaction, understanding limits, and taking turns. The most elemental board games teach early learning skills of number, shape, letter, and color recognition, as well as counting, grouping, and reading fundamentals. Educational board games have survived for centuries by virtue of their essence– learning by way of fun!

Many of these also have junior versions for younger learners.

Language Arts

For language arts development, several different board games are available that teach word and letter recognition, phonetics, rhyming, anagrams, synonyms, spelling and vocabulary building, and reading comprehension:

1. Scrabble

2. Boggle

3. Scattergories

4. Password

5. Anagramania

Mathematics

Many board games offer learning in number recognition, counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, pre-algebra, geometry, and monetary value and denominations:

1. Yahtzee

2. Monopoly

3. Money Bags: A Coin Value Game

4. The Allowance Game

5. Head Full of Numbers

Geography

Several educational board games teach geography, directional, and distance skills by incorporating maps of states, nations, and continents. Many of these also teach cultural differences and social studies:

1. Great States

2. Risk

3. GeoSafari

4. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

5. Brain Quest: Know the States (also Brain Quest: Around the World)

Science

Many board games are available that involve science learning, including biology, anatomy, earth science, meteorology, environmental science, ecology, astronomy, physics, and chemistry:

1. Operation

2. Totally Gross

3. Science Lab: Earth Science (also Science Lab: Life Science)

4. Anatomy Academy

5. Professor Noggins Wonders of Science

Board games make excellent teaching tools for all ages!

*Image provided by Educational Insights.*

Super cool toy alert! B. Toys, known for their brightly-colored, educational toys for children, has developed what “Mom” thinks is just plain SMART. Many of their favorites now come in recycled packaging, made from recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks, and the boxes wrap themselves for easy gift-giving! For busy families who want to make a difference, and cringe at the thought of buying yet another birthday party bag that may get tossed once the present is opened, this eco-friendly option is simply fabulous!

The B. Alphaberry is a learning tool which teaches youngsters the alphabet on their own handheld PDA! It arrives packaged in its’ own recycled paper box, and includes the following features for fun, anytime!

  • Push any button. A letter appears & is read aloud.
  • 3 screen colors
  • 4 musical styles of the alphabet song
  • Cozy in little hands
  • Auto-off and volume control (It can use its inside voice, too)

The B. Alphaberry can be purchased at Target, or you can visit justb-byou.com to locate a retailer near you.

The B. Okideoke is perfect for your budding singer! For family sing-alongs, or just to record your own voice, this little microphone comes in recycled packaging, and has 4 unique features:

  • Amplify your voice
  • 8 pre-recorded tunes
  • Record a message or a song
  • Control the tempo

To learn more about the B. Okideoke, which can be purchased at Target.com, please visit justb-byou.com.

*Company geneorusly provided samples and images for this review.*

Celebrate the Earth with a little planet-friendly FUN with the entire family! The following educational books and green games make for a wonderful evening of home spun entertainment while learning about Mother Earth at the same time.

Woodsy Words

Remember pick-up sticks? Taking the original game and making it both eco-friendly and educational, Woodsy Words builds reading skills with simple game play. To play, simply hold all the sticks in one hand and let them fall onto a flat surface. Then, select one stick – if you can extract it without moving any of the others, read the word printed on it and select another stick. Continue play until you bump another stick or get stuck on a word. The player with the most sticks at the end of the game wins! This new game features 30 Earth-friendly vocabulary words. The sticks are printed with vegetable ink on recycled paper. For ages 5+. www.educationalinsights.com

Smens® Pens

Can pens that are made from recycled newspapers smell fruity and delicious? Yes! Check out Smens, the latest release from the best-selling manufacturers of Smencils. Perfect for drawing, writing, and keeping score, Smens are available in gourmet scents including, Red Licorice, Creamsicle, Aloha, Mystery Scent, Banana fo Fana, Mocha, Passion Fruit, Ninja Berry, Pink Lemonade, and Black Licorice. Each Smen is individually wrapped in a stay-fresh biodegradable plastic tube and is guaranteed to keep its scent for two years. For ages 6+. www.educationalinsights.com

World Repair Kit by Serena & Lily

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing…in Perfect Harmony…” Inspire kids to make the world a better place this Earth Day with the unique World Repair Kit by Serena & Lily! The kit contains a 205 page guidebook that is chock full of earth-friendly ideas that you and your family can do together to make a difference. Big or small, every action counts, and kids can stamp their passport once each activity is completed. Ages 8+. www.serenaandlily.com

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals; illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Compost Stew is a delightful alphabetical recipe that teaches youngsters how to create and use their very own home compost bin. With bouncy verses featuring items that will nourish Mother Earth and gorgeous illustrations that use recycled and found materials, this picture book furthers a timely message—to nurture and give back to the Earth.

Apple cores

Bananas, bruised

Coffee grounds with filters, used

Just add to the pot

and let it all rot

into Compost Stew!

Through Earth Day you can enter to win your very own copy of Compost Stew! Visit www.siddals.com.

Karaoke Fun with B. Okideoke

Sing along with the whole family while recording your voice with the B. Okideoke from B. Toys! Little ones can record a message or song, or sing along to 8 pre-recorded tunes. As B. Toys says, “Anything Worth Saying is Worth Saying Louder!” B eco-friendly too – the cool packaging is made from recycled paper and soy-based inks, and it wraps itself for an instant present, which Moms’ love! justb-byou.com

*Companies generously provided images and samples for this article.*

These plush, brightly-colored friends from Zoocchini pop right out of the bucket, ready for lots of snuggles and imaginative play! Your little ones will love their own Ollie the Octopus or Jilly the Giraffe to play with at home, or take along in their designer bucket, their plush friends’ “home away from home.” They are just too, too cute – you may be tempted to start your own menagerie!

With 12 adorable plush friends to choose from, kids will delight in Zoocchini’s selection, and because of the unique packaging in brilliantly painted buckets, these make fabulous birthday gifts, as well! Each plush friend costs just $22.95, and can be purchased online at www.zoocchini.com.

Zoocchini is a children’s lifestyle company dedicated to zany and fun products including plush toys, hooded towels, carpets, home decor, and “Mom’s” favorite – melamine dinnerware sets.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

How to Make Salt Dough Ornaments

By Susan Lower

Do you worry about glass bulbs falling off the tree and breaking around pets and children? Are you constantly yelling at little Jonny “Don’t touch that!” as he sneaks up to the Christmas tree?

Not only are salt dough ornaments environmentally and kid-friendly, they’re a fun and inexpensive way to decorate your Christmas tree.

Follow this simple recipe to create your own salt dough ornaments:

What you’ll need

1 cup of fine salt

1 cup of flour

½ cup of water

Christmas Cookie Cutters

Rolling Pin

Plastic Straw

Paint

Ribbon

Instructions

Mix salt, flour, and water in a large bowl. Knead until smooth and shape into a ball. Use some extra flour to sprinkle on a flat surface. Take small pieces of dough and spread out using a rolling pin. Your salt dough should be ¼” to ½” thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters.

Lightly grease or line a flat cookie sheet with wax paper. Place salt dough shapes onto the cookie sheet.

Using the end of a straw, poke a hole in the top of each ornament. You don’t want to position your hole too close to the top so your ornament doesn’t break when you hang it.

Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Unlike cookies, you want your salt dough ornaments to be “hard as a rock” once they’re cool.

Place your baked ornaments on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. After your ornaments are cool, paint any way you desire.

Cut lengths of ribbon and thread through each hole after your ornaments are dry. Tie ribbon ends in knot to make a loop. Your salt dough ornaments are now ready to hang. To give your ornaments a more country look, you can cut stripes of checkered fabric to make ties instead of ribbon.

Romantic at heart, Susan Lower is one crafty mom. She has written over a hundred articles for venues such as ehow, triond, ezines, and newspapers. When Susan’s not writing, she enjoys visiting friends and a good cup of tea. To find out more about Susan Lower you can visit her site at www.susanlower.com.

Light up the night without batteries or electricity this season! These holiday-inspired glow-in-the-dark decals from WallCandy Arts are great for decorating your home for the holidays. Best of all, they can be applied and reapplied each year without damaging the walls. What a great way to reduce and reuse!

The ultimate in energy efficient illumination, Glow-in-the-Dark decorative decals cost $48.00. For more information, visit www.wallcandyarts.com.

*Image provided by WallCandy Arts.*

When you’re a kid—every insect, plant, and piece of nature is fascinating. Give the gift of adventure with the new Kid’s Bug-Eye Headlight from Coghlan’s! The Bug-Eye Headlight is compact, lightweight and powered by a bright white LED that never needs replacing. The light also features a comfortable elastic head strap in a fun purple and yellow color combination. An affordable gift at just $9, the Bug-Eye Headlight will be a hit this holiday season!

To learn more or to order, visit Coghlans.com.

*Company provided information and images for this review.*

Looking for a creative way to have some fun with your daughter this Halloween? If you have an Olivia fan in the house, skip the store-bought costumes and spend mommy-and-me time crafting an Olivia costume, thanks to Nick Jr.com. Felt, a striped shirt, a hat, basic craft supplies and a big imagination are all you need to transform your daughter into the fun, 6 3/4 year old little girl Olivia. Help your little one dress just like her inspirational friend and turn trick-or-treating into a big adventure!

Nick Jr.com helps outline the entire process from start to finish – complete with a list of supplies needed to create an Olivia costume, most of which can already be found around the home! For face paint, check out Luna Organics Pixie Magic Face Makeup to put on a pale pink face, just like Olivia.

For more fun, DIY costume ideas for Halloween this year, visit NickJr.com.

Splish splash! Kids will have fun in the bath with Rub A Dub ABC and 123 Bath Toys! These learning toys make bath time enjoyable – the soft yet durable foam letters stick to the tile or tub once wet. What a great way to practice spelling or counting! Each set comes in its own reusable plastic tub with a convenient carrying handle, and features 2 bold, multi-colored sets of alphabet letters and numbers 0-9 for a total of 62 foam pieces. For ages 2 years & up, the Rub A Dub ABC and 123 Bath Toy set by Alex Toys provides good, clean fun (pun intended!) for little ones. Not just for the tub, the sturdy foam letters can be placed on a high chair tray to learn and play, or spilled out across a play mat for counting, sorting and spelling. The thick foam texture makes it easy for tiny fingers to manipulate and grasp the letters and numbers, too! Plus, the plastic tub packs up neatly, making it a great item to pack into the car for the next trip to Grandma’s. Moms will love how easy the letters are to clean off, as well – just rinse and air dry.

The Rub A Dub ABC and 123 Bath Toys Set is available online at www.growingtreetoys.com.

*This product was received courtesy of Growing Tree Toys for this review.*