Debate Club: Can a New Year’s Resolution Actually Make a Difference?

Why I’m making a New Year’s resolution this year

by Kristina Johnson

I guess you could say I’m an eternal optimist. I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions my entire adult life, despite being among the vast majority of people who rarely stick with them. Every year when December 31st rolls around, I’ve found myself gearing up to start fresh in the year ahead with a totally cliché list of goals to achieve. Eat healthier. Get my caffeine habit under control. Start working out more (or, to be honest, at all).

Last year, however, was a little different. I rang in 2016 in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital where I’d given birth to my daughter the day before. With a due date in late January, I’d laughed it off whenever people had joked that I might have a New Year’s baby (convinced as I was that I was would be pregnant literally forever). To my great surprise, I did indeed begin the year as a brand new mother.

There’s nothing like being handed a mini human to care for 24/7 to give you a sense of perspective. Suddenly the idea of resolving to live a healthier lifestyle was more important than ever – I’m someone’s mom! I can’t have the dietary habits of a 7th grader anymore! But as so often happens to those of us who begin each new year with grand plans, life simply got in the way. My dreams of eating well and exercising more became hazier and hazier as my baby consumed more and more of my time.

I was ultimately much too busy to stand a chance at sticking to any sort of resolution for 2016, but as this year winds down I find myself thinking ahead to 2017 and the type of woman and mother I want to be in the new year.

Before I quit my job earlier this past summer to become a stay-at-home mom, I’d have to fill out a self-evaluation as part of my annual performance review. I would have to rate myself on how well I’d done my job. Was I “exceeding expectations”? Did I “need improvement”? Did I “achieve my goals”?

I was never too shy to give myself a glowing review. I knew I worked hard, had the respect of my peers, and always got the job done. I started each new work year proud of my accomplishments and confident that I’d learn more, earn more, and keep climbing the corporate ladder.

There was no official performance review for my first year as a mother, however. No one’s logged the countless hours I spent comforting and cuddling, and no one’s going to hand me a raise and a promotion for all my efforts. I certainly worked my butt off in 2016 to be a great mom. It was hands down the best year of my life, but it was also one filled with challenges and self-doubt and too many mistakes to count.

The smiling face of my happy, sweet, and mischievous almost-one-year-old lets me know I must have done something right this year. But I also know I can be an even better mother, because there’s always room for improvement when you’re doing the absolute hardest job in the world.

In 2017, I resolve to be more patient. I resolve to play more and hover less. I resolve to teach my daughter new things and learn some more myself. And yeah, I resolve to eat healthier and kick the caffeine habit – because there’s a little set of eyes watching everything I do.

The data says I won’t always be able to stick to these resolutions. And that’s probably true. But having some filed away in my mind gives me something to work toward. And they remind me that as my daughter begins her second year of life in 2017, and I begin my second year of motherhood, I owe it to both of us to never stop striving to be the best me I can be.

debate club

Don’t make New Year’s resolutions

by Cheryl Maguire

It’s January 14, 2016. People are filtering into the cycle room at the YMCA. I’m adjusting the seat on my stationary bicycle when I realize the class is almost full 20 minutes before it even starts (which is unusual).

The woman next to me, who regularly attends the class, grumbles, “I hate this time of year when all the ‘ressies’ take over the gym.”

Since I’m also a regular, I know her term “ressies” is referring to all the people who newly signed up for a gym membership in hopes of fulfilling their New Year’s resolution of working out. Every January for the past 15 years that I’ve been a member of the gym, I’ve witnessed this phenomenon.

I turn to her and say, “Don’t worry. They’ll all be gone by March.”

She laughs and says, “That is so true.”

Even though I made light of the situation, I actually feel sad knowing all of these people will not achieve a goal they created. Richard Wiseman studied 3,000 people who made New Year’s resolutions. At the end of the year he found only 12 percent of them had achieved their goal.

Despite the high number of failed goals-reaching, about 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. According to psychology professor Peter Herman, people usually don’t achieve their New Year’s resolution goals because they create unrealistic goals. People also tend to underestimate the difficulty in achieving these goals.

I wasn’t always a fitness fanatic. In fact, I would liken my former self to more of a couch potato who avoided all forms of exercise. My transformation was a long and slow process (over the course of several years) and it never involved a New Year’s resolution of working out more.

I think creating a goal just because the calendar (or other people) are telling you to will only set you up for failure which could result in a decreased sense of self-worth. Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution because it’s a new year, create goals throughout the year in those areas of life where you want make changes.

Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions this year, consider the following questions:

  • What did I accomplish this past year?
  • How can I build upon those accomplishments next year?
  • What are some things I could have done differently this past year?
  • List some people who were supportive of me this past year.
  • How can I support other people next year?
  • When I think about this past year I feel happy to remember . . .
  • When I think about this past year I feel sad to remember . . .
  • What are some new skills or information I learned this year?
  • What are some new skills I’d like to learn in the future?
  • What steps do I need to take to acquire these new skills?

Santa Shock

Learning the truth about Santa sent my 6-year-old mind into a tailspin. But the questions it made me ask about reality shaped everything that came after.

As a child, I was deeply invested in Santa. On Christmas Eve, I put out apples and carrots for the reindeer. My older brother, Phil, helped. There was nothing more gratifying than finding the empty plate on Christmas morning. I had helped Santa’s reindeer on their way.

In the weeks before Christmas, I wrote long letters to Santa addressed to the North Pole. My friend, Karen, accompanied me once to mail one.

“What are you doing?” she asked.  Actually, what she said was, “What do you think you’re doing?”

I explained that I was writing to Santa.

“There’s is no such thing as Santa Claus,” said Karen. 

(Karen was a year older than I, and a year wiser. Besides that, her family celebrated Hanukkah. She had absolutely zero stake in Santa.) 

I knew what she said was a lie, an ugly rumor. But the sheer heresy of it upset me. 

Christmas drew nearer. At school, a philosophical debate raged among my classmates, “Does Santa Claus exist?”  The entire first grade was divided over the issue. I allied myself with the “Yes” camp, but the question itself disturbed me. Why should a fundamental truth such as the existence of Santa Claus be the subject of such intense controversy? Could it be because he didn’t exist? 

The closer Christmas came, the more heated the debate.

I picked at the question like a scab, endlessly interrogating my mother and father about it.  Finally, under the pressure, my parents started to crack. With horrified fascination, I moved in for the kill, grilling them until they admitted, flat out, that they had lied to me about Santa Claus. I was deeply shaken. Inwardly, I had always believed that Santa Claus existed. I just wanted to be absolutely sure of it. 

The reverberations over the Santa Claus deception sent shock waves through my six-year-old psyche, shattering my trust in the adult world and its institutions. What stunned me was how cooperatively and how consistently the Santa fiction had been presented. Even my brother was in on the plot. And it had worked. I had believed, completely and uncritically.

Now I exchanged my naive acceptance of Santa for a sharp-bladed tool called critical judgment. With this powerful new instrument I began to reexamine my universe.

Every Sunday, I went to Mass with my mother. Was this, too, an elaborate adult collusion? Did God really exist? Were the priests at church exchanging knowing looks with the parents? Were the nuns smiling at the trusting children behind their long veils?

I took it a step further. What if the whole world and all my experiences and perceptions were one massive conspiracy, a backdrop on which air and trees and sunlight and people and time were painted? 

These thoughts threw me into a mild panic. I saw reality, my very consciousness, rip before my eyes, like a worn-out stage curtain in a carnival sideshow. I’d walk around stiffly or sit staring in the car, wondering whether that red light my mother stopped for really existed, or if she was only pretending.

What was real? What was illusion? And what was behind that curtain?

I became intensely interested in what lay behind the appearance of things, in the interior lives of people around me – the reality behind the image. What dramas unfolded behind the quiet facade of that stolid-looking brick house across the street? Beneath the placid face of the old man walking his dog? These became the urgent, and unanswered, questions of my childhood. They could have driven me crazy (they drove my parents crazy), but instead I became a writer.

Writing is an exploration, a peek behind the curtain to glimpse what lies beyond – and within. It is a way to answer your own rhetorical questions.

Though my Santa shock caused me to look at the world with new and more discerning eyes, Christmas never lost its excitement for me. I still love Christmas – the magic and the music, the lights shining through the winter darkness.

My first children’s book, Noelle of the Nutcracker, is a Christmas story about a magical ballerina doll. But the magic that I live and write by is a hard, stubborn magic that comes from within.  It’s a magic that endures in spite of setbacks and disappointments. It’s the meaning you create for yourself when the illusion has fallen away. It’s the fir tree that stays green through the long winter, the resurgence of hope and the renewal of spring. 

My friend, Mary, tried to straddle the line between magic and reality. She told her son that Saint Nicholas was a man who lived long ago, and that he was the spirit of Christmas today. Six-year-old John listened quietly, seeming to understand.

When she finished, he went running outside, shouting to his friends, “Santa Claus is dead!”

My own daughter is 20 now and has her own existential questions to wrestle with. However she chooses to answer them, I hope she’ll always feel the spirit of ­joy, love, and celebration of life alive in the world and within herself.

Undeniably, there is magic in that.

Posted on Categories Analog Life, Holiday

What You’d Actually Like to Give: An Honest Gift Guide

Let’s let each other nap! Without guilt. Without shame. Just like, hey how about we take a freaking rest?

Gifts for Kids

Show them the place their college savings should be.

Cry a little. Hold each other.

Get them a Slinky!

Such a great, classic toy. Use it once. Feel joyous!

Then, accidentally put a single kink in that perfectly engineered coil. Spend the rest of your life tormented by the scientific impossibility of ever fixing it, versus the wastefulness of just throwing it away. Can you recycle it? Maybe you should take it the scrap metal place? WHO KNOWS?

Remember that one time it worked, though?

Big boxes of kittens. 

If it turns out your kids are allergic to kittens, not a prob!  Just give them away!  The trauma of getting an adorable baby animal and then immediately having to give it up will be entirely assuaged by the one thing all kids love: big boxes.

Knit something!

Get some yarn and some needles or whatever gear knitting requires and get started.

Knit all the way through the first 45 minutes of “Christmas Vacation.” Look down at your progress. Whoops, you forgot to knit. Cast off and call it good.

Give your kid $20 instead. Or a hug.

Books. Look for titles like: 

“Flossing: Yes You Have to and No You Don’t Need That Much.”

“Picking Your Nose is Gross: One Boy’s Tale of Redemption”

“The Case of the Kids Who Actually Fed the Cats Once Without Being Asked”

Gifts for moms.

Fold the laundry.

FOLD. IT.

Then, put it away! Not like, “Oh hey, I’ll move it from the bed to the chair to the floor and maybe back to the bed again, and who knows if it’s even clean or dirty anymore, it’s probably all dirty, I’ll just put it back in the laundry basket.”

Nooo. No. You have to fold it and then put it alllll the way away. Nice try though, kid.

That 23 cents missing from each of our earned dollars.

Yeah. That. Where is it? We want it.

Gifts for dads.

Ties. 

Does he already have ties? He probably does. He either has 47 and wears two, or he has two and wears none.

Put all the ties in a box and wrap the box in Family Circus comics. Burn it. Take a photo and post it to Instagram. Tag gift recipient. #HappyHolidays

Get him a huge chainsaw.

Remember to also buy him a helmet because he is now 100% more likely to filet his skull than he was before you gave him a chainsaw.

Important note: Especially and definitely buy your dad/brother/friend a chainsaw if he’s currently living in Brooklyn, and/or is otherwise highly unlikely to ever need or use a chainsaw.

Give the gift of irony.

Gifts for all humanity.

Get some good therapy.

Refrain from having opinions until you’ve been to 24 sessions. Then, still don’t have any opinions.

Just sit down next to your parent/partner/friend one day and say, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t understand.”

Go back for another 24 sessions. Keep going. Never stop going.

Naps.

Let’s let each other nap. Please, can we just do this? Without guilt. Without shame.

Just, “Hey how about we take a freaking rest? I know we’re running out of ozone, reasonable politicians, and panda bears, but we still have all the naps!”

We can do this, guys. We can NAP.

How to Shield Your Child from Greed and Entitlement During the Holidays

Keep the focus on what the holidays really mean to your family and instill in your kids a sense of generosity and gratitude.

Mid-gift-opening last Christmas with my in-laws, my four-year-old uttered a phrase that sends chills down any well meaning parents spine: “That’s all???”

The kid got a pass because, well, she was four, and impulse control had not been invited to the festivities that day. But her comment was enough to literally make me break out into a sweat and begin thinking about how I could intentionally cultivate generosity and gratitude with my kids during the holidays.

We have discovered a lot about gratitude in recent years, and what we’ve learned is no less than astounding. Studies have consistently shown us that practicing gratitude is effective in increasing well-being, as it improves our psychological, social, and spiritual resources.

Let’s be real for a second. The culture our kids absorb during Christmas is basically beckoning them into a greedy and selfish mindset. Luckily, as parents we can make the culture inside our own homes reflect the true meaning and values of what the holiday season means to us and our family.

Give a lesson on advertising

The holidays are a prime opportunity to give your child a head’s up that toy corporations want to steal a piece of their tiny impressionable soul, lock it up, and throw away the key. Okay, so possibly with different language, but helping your child to see through the gimmicks of holiday advertising will help them be less impressionable to material greed.

We can point out how stores and commercials set out to increase their desire to consume, and also blur the line between what they want and what they actually need.

Watching ads together and reminding them that, even though the smiling perfectly dressed kids with the new toy seem to imply happiness, we know for a fact that money and material items have no correlation to long term happiness.

Explaining to your child that – although toy companies will do their darndest (including using emotionally manipulative measures) to convince us otherwise – toys are not in fact the reason for the season, and that your family celebrates the holidays for reasons much more meaningful and important.

Get your kids in on the giving

Whether it be small scale or large, involving kids in selfless acts of generosity will increase appreciation for what they have.

My husband is a master gift giving guru. Ever since our oldest was three, he began pulling her into the conversation of what to get for mom. Now each year, the kids are expected to brainstorm gift ideas for family members, which automatically shifts their thinking outwards and away from themselves. Kids can also learn the value of a dollar by engaging in gift purchase transactions, and helping to keep track of a gift budget.

We also have an awesome opportunity to build family bonds and increase our child’s worldview during the holidays by choosing a cause outside the family to support. Whether this be giving a financial donation, spending time together at a food bank, or random acts of kindness for those in need, our kids are learning invaluable lessons about how fortunate they really are.

Model gratitude and generosity

If we really want to decrease greed and increase gratitude, incorporating it into a ritual or routine is key. The holidays serve as a perfect opportunity to begin a gratitude circle during dinner, or during holiday festivities. When parents make gratitude a priority, kids will, too. It won’t be long before everyone is feeling all the positive feels, and reaping gratitude’s many benefits.

Along with making new rituals during the holidays, we should model presence. If we are flying around like Martha Stewart on steroids, we will likely have some good cookies as a result, but it’s at the risk of missing what really matters.

Only when we slow down a bit each day and take in our surroundings, can we really get in touch with our own feelings of gratitude. When we genuinely express our gratitude to our children, it teaches a powerful lesson that will likely be woven into your child’s intrinsic view of the holidays.

Role play holiday expectations

With kids five or younger, some of the aforementioned ideas may prove to be a bit too abstract, although it’s certainly never too early to start sowing seeds. For those of you who still want to do what you can to decrease the sweat output during holiday get-togethers, role playing will make the abstract concepts of manners, patience, and gratitude more concrete and easy to remember.

Get right down on the floor with your kids and give them words and guidance that align with your family’s expectations. Then offer up lots of praise when they are able to follow through.

The holidays are not a stress-free time for parents. We are told a million-and-one traditions and activities must be completed for optimal holiday magic. Take a few minutes to reflect on what “holiday magic” really means to you though.

I’m guessing most of us would say it involves a little less time at the store and a little more time giving our kids the gifts you can’t buy, but will value forever.

My List of Demands for the Extended Holiday Break

This holiday break, I’ve told myself I’m going to slow down, listen more, and enjoy the family time. But only if my demands are met.

It hit me the other day that Christmas break is just a few days away.

I find myself getting a bit giddy thinking about all of the possibilities. I am so excited about the idea of spending every moment with my kids in the days leading up to the joyous events of the holiday season. 

In fact, I actually made a promise to them that, this year, I will enjoy our time. I vowed to slow down and listen more. I expressed my excitement about reading holiday books, eating cookies, and sleeping under the tree (the three that is not up yet, or picked out, for that matter). 

At dinner the other night, I exclaimed, “This year will be different! This year we will make every day of winter break an adventure.”

I really, truly, meant every word of it. I promised. I believed it whole-heartedly. Until it hit me.

Holy crap! Christmas vacation is 10 days longer than Thanksgiving break.

Looks like it is time for some serious ground rules. 

While we are on the topic of this very long extended break, I have a few suggestions. Actually they’re requests. Oh, seriously, who am I kidding?

I present to you my list of demands for Christmas vacation:

For the love of Pete, or Santa, or whoever else I can call upon to help me…please oh please don’t make me lock myself in the laundry room again while my kids are at each others throats. The cats seem to also hide in there, and they hate me. 

Is there some kind of alarm that can be put on the iPad when anyone takes it into the bathroom for an extended period of time? Seriously, why does that 800-dollar piece of technology need to be in close contact with the toilet?

Under no circumstances will I entertain the idea of wearing matching pajamas on Christmas morning. I watched my dad be subjected to this humiliation every year. That striped hat with the white pom pom hanging off the top was always bouncing off his eye like a paddle ball.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the poor guy had to wear a nightgown. This was a man who grew up on a farm in North Dakota during the Great Depression. He peed in a tin can and shared a room with 10 brothers and sisters. And he had to wear a red and white striped nightgown on Christmas.

All bets are off. There will be no negotiating, bargaining, or begging. I will not listen to it, give in to it, or fall for it.

I expect the following items for myself: 14 bags of Ghirardelli chocolate chips, 14 large boxes of DOTS, 14 bags of Dove Promises (one for each day of break), and a new door handle that locks. Please install the handle on my bathroom door so I can enjoy my emotional eating in peace.

This is the last one, I promise. It might be the hardest one to deliver, but here goes. Is there any way to reprogram my kids automatic response from Mom to Dad? Honestly, there is another adult in this house, even if he is only an adult by age.

All joking aside, I secretly cannot wait for the lazy days of break. To lounge around all day drinking hot cocoa, eating all the things we’re not supposed to, and watching “Elf” a few too many times.

These crazy, wonderful, stressful, magical, times only come around once a year, so try to find a few moments each day to just enjoy the laughs, the hugs, and the cuddles as much as you can (even if you have to take your chocolate chips and hide out in the laundry room with the cats for a little peace and quiet).

A Minimalist Parent’s Guide to the Holiday Gift Overload 

You don’t always see eye to eye with gift-giving family members, especially when you’ve got a less is more mentality.

I married into a family that cares for and appreciates stuff. Coming from a family that not only isn’t so into stuff, but, in fact, fears and is deeply unsettled by stuff, it has been a major adjustment, especially around the holidays.

My husband’s family cherishes and saves things in a way my own family does not. For example, my mother-in-law has one box from every school year of my husband’s life. My own mother has one box from all the school years of my life. One box. And I’m not even sure how big that box is – it might not fit more than a loaf of bread. It might even be more of a bag.

Obviously, my mother’s saved items have nothing to do with how much she loves me. I’ve always known that. But this is where I’m coming from.

So, now that I have a wonderful mother-in-law who, like many people, loves to buy A LOT of stuff during the holidays for her grandson, I’m working on opening my own nervous and organized heart to all the things she so lovingly and generously offers.

As Christmas and Hanukkah approach, here’s how an obsessive minimalist like me copes with the onset of an avalanche.

Suggest donations instead of gifts

Yeah, sure, give this a shot. Your idea will likely be met with a ripple of laughter followed by, “Nice try, babe, but we’ve already made our donations. Lots of them! And we made them while simultaneously purchasing 750 gifts for your son. AND WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED.”

You’ve married into a good family. They want EVERYONE to have stuff.

At least you tried. Good job for trying.

Buy a crapload of storage bins

Since your minimalist fate was sealed the day your parents casually recycled your first inconsequential school art project, the only way to handle the inevitable onslaught of holiday gifts is to go to the mattresses. And by mattresses, I mean bins.

For me, seeing new toys spread out all over the living room floor is akin to being trapped behind a pile of live rats. So after everyone’s gone to bed, I tiptoe into the living room and neatly place 75 percent of those rats inside plastic bins and shove those bins deep in a closet somewhere. I then return to bed and dream, peacefully, of empty rat-free rooms.

Until your kid learns to use the stepladder and finds a way to not let you hide toys in bins ever again, this works PERFECTLY.     

Preemptively give away some toys

I’ve got a one-for-one philosophy: For every new thing, an old thing must be retired. The thing can either be taken down to the basement for future children or mold experiments, or the thing can be given to a child in need NOW.

Head to your local homeless shelter or Salvation Army with used toys. Then ride that high on over to CommuniGift, where you can buy something off the wish list of a kiddo who isn’t getting as many as yours.

Say Thank You! Loudly and with feeling

The hour is nigh, the gift mountain is high, and you’re going to have to get it together and behave like a kind person. Otherwise it will seem like you are an ungrateful stuff-hating ogre-scrooge, who cannot find the fun in unwrapping countless items purchased lovingly for you and your tiny human.

Even if that IS what you are (and proud of it), you’ve got to model some gratitude. And anyway, smile therapy is no joke! I find the more conviction with which I say thank you, the more thankful I actually am.

Employ equal amounts of wine and yoga 

Your child’s incredible grandparents still have more gifts to give? Yes, yes they do.

But listen, no one will notice if you consume an entire glass of wine in less than 10 seconds. Nor will they see you subsequently lower yourself down onto the floor into a gummy version of upward facing dog.

They’re paying attention to your child as he opens his 3000th present with the vigor of a triathlete and the enthusiasm of a “The Price is Right” contestant. It’s an opportune moment for self-care.

Admit defeat

You’ve now got a rug made of wrapping paper bits and Scotch tape and the toddler crash is imminent, but for the next four to seven minutes, you may simply recess into the folds of your couch and let relief wash over you. It’s done.

Your over-stimulated child is currently filled to the gills with joy as he paddles his way through The Sea of Four Thousand Toys. And your in-laws? They’re even more thrilled, seeing him like that.

Yeah, you might not have given your son the same things, or the same amount of things, but you all want the same thing, right? You want this tiny crazed creature to know he’s loved.

And he is. And he does. 

And you’re probably going to need at least seven more bins.

Posted on Categories Holiday

The Myth of the Poisonous Poinsettia

Despite the myth being debunked, poinsettias have continued to be incorrectly identified as poisons.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the house

hidden dangers were lurking

plants to hide and trees to douse

A few weeks ago, my parents took my two-year-old with them to pick out a Christmas tree. When they returned, my son struggled into their kitchen, beaming behind the beautiful white poinsettia he had picked out for me.

“Don’t let him eat it,” my dad joked. This was a child who had refused most food that wasn’t apples or Christmas cookies for the duration of our visit, so there was a vanishingly small likelihood he would consider eating the plant. But my dad issued that warning anyway, as he and my mom have done for as long as I could remember, because poinsettias are poisonous.

Except that they’re not. Poinsettias were cleared of all charges in the 1970s, when researchers at Ohio State found them to be non-toxic. Snopes and other myth-busting websites have exonerated the poinsettia. Yet poinsettias have continued to be incorrectly identified as poisons.

What accounts for the persistence of this holiday myth? And what can the example of the poinsettia teach us about fear-based parenting?

According to Ecke Ranch, the company responsible for cultivating poinsettias into the flowers we recognize today, Flores de Noche Buena (Flowers of the Holy Night) were so named because they bloom during the holiday season. They feature in a Christmas miracle story about a poor girl whose paltry offering of weeds bloomed into brilliant red flowers when she placed them by her chapel’s nativity scene.

The plant most Americans know it is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, a former medical student and amateur botanist who, as the United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, found the plant and brought it home to his South Carolina greenhouse in the late 1820s.

The plant, which Ecke Ranch suggests was used as a fever treatment by the Aztecs, did not become “poisonous” until 100 years after its introduction to the U.S. The poison poinsettia myth has its roots in botanist Joseph Francis Rock’s assertion that a two-year-old child died from sucking on the plant’s leaves.

It’s not clear that the child existed, or if the child did exist, if he died an early death, or if the child did die at a young age, if it was a poinsettia that did him in. But the myth spread like, well, poinsettia, which had taken root across the U.S. and into Hawaii, where the myth originated. By 1944, that myth was solidified in Harry L. Arnold’s “Poisonous Plants of Hawaii:

The milky juice and the leaves are poisonous. The two-year-old child of an Army officer at Fort Shafter died from eating a poinsettia leaf in 1919. The poisonous substance is neither an alkaloid nor a glucoside, and is probably a resin. It causes intense emesis and catharsis, and delirium before death. The writer has been unable to find any definitive statement of its pharmacological action or its antidote.

The myth then became an invasive species, growing into medical publications and then popular magazines throughout the U.S. In the 1970s, the Society of American Florists, wishing to restore the poinsettia’s good name while improving their business, commissioned a study from researchers at Ohio State, which found that poinsettias were not poisonous.

The child who may or may not have existed and who may or may not have died is long gone from memory, but the effects of his story linger nearly 100 years later – a testament to the long-reaching effects fear can have on our collective parenting decisions. Belief in poisonous poinsettias has been as persistent as belief in Santa Claus, in spite of mounting contrary evidence.

But in the case of the flowers, why do we keep believing long after we should? One theory is the name, which sounds close to “poison” and keeps danger front-of-mind. The Museum of Hoaxes identifies this theory, as well as “guilt by association.” Poinsettias, which look similar to holly and mistletoe, got unfairly grouped with these actual poisonous plants.

That belief may be starting to change. Over the past few holiday seasons, the Society of American Florists has encouraged its members to download and distribute a flyer about poinsettias. Perhaps their ongoing campaign is working. In 1996, researchers studying calls to Poison Control Centers reaffirmed that poinsettia exposures did not result in toxicity. In 2004, Poison Control Centers received 2206 calls about poinsettia exposure, which made the poinsettia responsible for 3 percent of the phone calls for plant exposures.

Plant-exposure calls to Poison Control have fallen over the past decade, as have calls about poinsettias, which have dropped every year in both number and percentage from 2004 to 2014. In 2014, poinsettia exposures accounted for only 343 calls, representing .77 percent of the phone calls for plant exposures.

The decrease in calls to poison control do not tell us that children are eating poinsettia any less often, or that people aren’t buying poinsettias as often, although either could be true. It may suggest that the publicity campaigns like this one sponsored by the Society of American Florists are working to restore the poinsettia’s good name.

The cautionary tale of the tree-turned-torch

Poinsettias are not going to kill us. But what about the other holiday plant at the start of our story? Christmas trees have been much-maligned for face and eye injuries as well as falls. But more than any of these injuries, Christmas trees are most feared for the fire hazards they pose.

We’re warned to spend the holiday season obsessively watering our trees, quickly disposing of dry needles, and unplugging strings of lights when not in use. Artificial trees invite different warnings about frayed wires and broken bulbs.

Christmas trees have done more to earn their reputation than poinsettias. According to the National Fire Protection Association’s November 2016 report on “Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees,” Christmas tree fires are responsible for an average of 210 house fires each year, which lead to an average of six deaths and 16 injuries, in addition to 16 million dollars of property damage.

We should be emboldened by these figures: 210 is a small number of trees, and even that average is on the decline. In 1980, there were 850 fires. In 2014 – the last year cited within the NFPA’s November 2016 report – there were 170 fires. While numbers like 16 million dollars in property damage sound grim, focusing on another big number can help us put this data into perspective.

The National Fire Protection Association reported average is 210 Christmas tree fires per year. It’s reasonable to assume that each of those fires was started by a single Christmas tree. Using the National Christmas Tree Association‘s data on Christmas tree sales, we can determine that from 2010 to 2014 (the same period reported on in the NFPA’s data), there were an average of 28.3 million real trees and 11.4 million artificial trees sold, for a total average of 39.7 million trees.

We cannot know if those trees are all sold to homeowners instead of businesses, or how many trees are not sold but cut down, but taking a conservative estimate and assuming that just half of that number – 20 million – go to homes, then the average number of Christmas tree fires per year represents one fire for every 100,000 trees. Again, that’s a reasonably conservative estimate.

It’s further reassuring to examine what sorts of fires are included within the NFPA report. Twenty-three percent of the fires included in the 2010-2014 study were intentional; that is, the trees had been set on fire on purpose. It’s likely that most of the trees involved in those fires were being burned in home fireplaces as a means of disposal, when the fires then got out of control.

What’s more troubling about Christmas tree fires is that they’re more deadly than other kinds of home fires. An ignited Christmas tree can destroy a living room in one minute, which helps to explain why Christmas tree-involved house fires are significantly more deadly than other types of house fires.

When a Christmas tree is the first item ignited, house fires carry a one in 34 chance of death. For all house fires, that risk is much lower, one in 142. So although the likelihood of a Christmas tree fire is astonishingly rare, such fires are more dangerous either because of or in spite of all of the PSAs we view each season.

Returning to the National Fire Protection Association’s report, at least some of the resulting deaths may have been avoided by fire prevention education. In some cases, clearly flammable materials like kerosene were stored near the tree, creating an avoidable fire hazard. In other cases, homeowners reentered the home for belongings. Examples such as these demonstrate the need for fire safety education at all times of the year, not just the holiday season.

For children, the holiday season’s invitation to magical thinking is a source of wonder and excitement. For parents, a different kind of magical thinking leads to fears of things that will likely never come to pass. The truth is that we should be worried less about our kids’ safety and more on our own.

Fall-related injuries and back strain are the number one and number three holiday-related injuries, and happen overwhelmingly in adult populations. But we can’t very well get rid of all the ladders and stools. And fearing all the chairs in our homes would drive us mad. So we build elaborate narratives around the more novel “dangers” of the holiday season.

This year, display your poinsettias without fear. Un-baby-gate your tree. But maybe lay off the eggnog before hanging any lights.

Why My Kids Know the Truth About Santa

Choosing to uphold the myth of Santa is a tricky decision.

I have three children, ranging from five to 10 years old, who won’t be getting a visit from Santa this year. In fact, they have never received a single present from the man. Santa never came to my house as a child, and my kids won’t ever hear sleigh bells on our roof either. We just don’t “do” Santa.

Before you go calling me a Grinch, allow me to explain. I actually love Christmas, and I celebrate it with a fervor. I bake dozens of pies and buy far too many presents. I would leave our Christmas tree up year round if my husband didn’t insist on sticking it in the attic every January. This time of year is full of traditions in our family. Santa just isn’t one of them.

The church I grew up in taught that good Christian parents told their children the truth about Santa. Our pastor was afraid that the kids would be confused by the similarities of Christ and Santa stories. The story of an immortal man who you can’t see but is always watching so that he can reward you for good behavior sounded too much like what we learning in Sunday school.

The church also warned that when children learned that their parents had lied to them about Santa, they might wonder whether their parents were lying about God. Obviously, many adult Christians grew up listening for reindeer on Christmas Eve, but in our faith community, it was a given that Santa could drive a dangerous wedge between your children and God.

In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn’t alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played. That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa’s lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real.

When my husband and I got married, we attended a conservative church that took the same hard line on Santa. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, our former pastor would preach a sermon berating any parents who allowed their children to believe in Santa, reiterating the message that a gift from Santa may interfere with a child’s salvation.

When our first son was born, we went along with this. But things got a little trickier when we became foster parents. I could not bear the thought of taking away our foster child’s belief in Santa, so we taught our biological son to play along with whatever kids happened to be in our home during the holidays.

Eventually, we left that church for reasons unrelated to Christmas. I’m not sure if our new church has an official Santa policy, but if they do, I’m pretty sure it is more grace based and assumes that God can reach my kids even if they think their presents arrived via sleigh instead of mom’s SUV.

As I became disillusioned with our former church community, the moratorium on Santa in our house remained, but the reasons behind it changed. I am no longer afraid that my children will lose their salvation by believing in a little magic. Honestly, I just really don’t like the message that goes along with the current, commercialized version of Santa.

I want my children to understand that people are valuable no matter what they look like, who they believe in, or how much their parents make. If Santa gives presents to all the good little boys and girls, it goes to reason that if a child receives fewer presents, or no gifts at all, they must not have been as good. I don’t want my kids to grow up believing that the child with a new x-box is somehow better than the one who got a little car from the dollar store.

I want them to know that families give what they can to each other at the holidays because they love each other. I want them to know that we help buy gifts for families in need because they are just as deserving of a wonderful Christmas as any other child. I believe it’s critical that they understand that many people do not celebrate Christmas as we do, or at all, because they believe differently – not because their children are bad. 

I also want my children to know that their own worth is not defined by what is under the tree. This Christmas is going to be a tight one for us. We won’t be checking quite as many things off their lists as we usually do because the industry in which my husband works is struggling. I don’t want my kids to think a smaller pile of gifts is in any way related to their behavior or their personal value.

I want my kids to understand that sometimes families struggle, but we come together and make things work anyway. I know many families make things work while embracing the magic of Santa, but all the gift tags under our tree will still say Love, Mom and Dad.

Last Minute Christmas Magic Tips From One Hot Mess to Another

The key to a truly memorable Christmas isn’t being a Super Parent. There are simple ways to infuse the season with magical sights, sounds, and traditions.

Ho, ho, holllly crap it’s almost Christmas!

Is it just me or does it seem to sneak up now, even though stores push it as early as Halloween? Why is that? Why doesn’t December feel as magical as it used to? What happened to the big emotional build up with carolers and cinnamon-smelling house parties full of red-cheeked aunts and uncles?

Oh, probably because I’m the parent now and I’m a hot mess. But while the season may never be as magical for me as it was when I was a kid, it’s my turn, my job, to keep it magical for the next generation.

Thus, I dig down deep, through the layers of my consumer cynicism and stress around budgets, clutter, and travel; through my precious ambivalence about Santa and my paranoia of alienating those of other traditions, and I look for ways to keep the holiday spirit alive in my house because, by Jove, I still want kids to have a childhood.

The key to a truly memorable Christmas isn’t being a Super Parent. It’s simply engaging your kids’ senses. When they’re smelling, touching, tasting, and feeling, they’re building vivid memories – and asking lots of questions! You don’t need a ton of planning to try one or two of these kid-friendly activities. And there’s still plenty of time to make everyone’s Christmas unforgettable:

Play with fire

Most Christmas traditions are an adaptation of Yule, the Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice, when days stop getting shorter and the sun begins its triumphant return. Try some of the season’s oldest traditions in commemorating darkness and light:

Track the sunset as it gets earlier and earlier then later and later. Encourage your kids’ questions about the astronomical reasons for this, and why this pattern has been so important to cultures the world around.

Dial down artificial light and instead use candles after dark. Make a mess creating homemade candleholders out of carved apples or salt dough.

Revive the Yule log! The warmth and light of a fire draws people of all ages together for more intimate evenings. If you don’t have a fireplace, decorate a symbolic log with votive candles and let the youngest person have the honor of setting it alight. It’s also fun to task little ones with gathering an “ashen faggot” – a bound bundle of twigs burnt on Christmas Eve by the oldest person present.

Deck the halls au natural

Love festive décor but don’t have the space to store it year-round? Using nature’s found objects cuts your budget, clutter, and carbon footprint, all while familiarizing your kids with their habitat and its seasonal scents and textures.

Take family walks to collect pinecones, acorns, waxy leaves, and other seedpods that fall on the ground. Play botanist by researching or imagining what plants shed these knick-knacks, then paint or gild them to make ornaments for your wreath, mantle, and tree. Usually they don’t even need a thread – little hands can just place them among the boughs.

Did you have to trim the bottom of your tree to make it fit? With the right tools you can slice that stump into discs perfect for decoupage. Drill a hole in each to add thread loops. At the end of the season you can compost or burn them with the rest of your tree, but save the one with your annual family portrait and have everyone sign the back. These make great heirlooms.

Yard art

Kids love to see their neighborhood transform from familiar to festive, but it doesn’t happen by itself! Encourage their patience, humor, and personal flair by giving them temporary control over your, ahem, curb appeal.

Got snow? If so, you don’t need to spend any money on outdoor decorations. Use chilled Kool Aid as dye and sculpt that stuff into reindeer, piles of presents, or even a nativity scene. A little time in the cold grows hardy souls! Plus, it’s always a laugh to watch those masterpieces melt.

Warmer climate? You probably still have critter friends around. Why not make some edible ornaments from peanut butter, birdseed, and suet? Crafting these makes the best kind of mess, hanging them is a party unto itself, and meeting the non-human neighbors is an educational thrill.

Eat and be merry

Repeating family recipes every year ensures that Christmas won’t just live forever in your kids’ minds, but also in their tongues, tummies, and noses. 

Host an annual cookie party for their friends. Tell everyone to bring something to decorate with – some kind of sprinkle, candy, or frosting. You provide the dough and cookie cutters (or blank store bought cookies, NO SHAME IN IT). Let each kid nominate one creation for the prize of taking home the leftovers.

Ever wonder what it means to go a-wassailing? Wassail is essentially mulled cider. As far as cocktails go, it’s easy to make, fragrant, alcohol-free, and infused with vitamins that combat the common cold. Wassail is used for the ceremony of Twelfth Night to toast the health of the orchards. Have the kids soak a piece of stale bread in the punch to place in forest branches, and serenade the trees in thanks for the fruit and fresh air they provide throughout the year.

Just like Twelfth Night, the under-observed holiday of Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the Three Magi to Bethlehem, stretches Christmas season into January in its own yummy way. The best-known commemoration is the King’s Cake. Recipes vary around the globe, but the most important ingredient is a dry bean or other small, food-safe inedible baked right into the treat. The person who finds this fève in their portion gets to wear a paper crown and be king for the night! To make sure there’s no cheating, portions are assigned by the youngest person present, who hides under the table where the server’s out of sight.

Make some noise

Probably the simplest way to ring in the season is to do so literally. Familiar melodies always evoke the times they’re tied to, but there is more than one way to play a tune.

Turn your family into an amateur handbell choir! Color-coded handbell sets often come with holiday sheet music (no musical literacy necessary), and best of all, these bells can only get so loud and never go out of tune or strike an offensive note.

No need to buy instruments if you have a little creativity to spare. Kids can learn a lot about the physics of music by building their own percussions. Pots, pans, pumpkin seeds shaken in a plastic cup – these are the makings of quite a band. Add a set of spoons and a few glasses filled to varying degrees for lighter chimes.

How long will it take to make something sound like “Little Drummer Boy”? Why don’t you let them figure that out while you go upstairs and take a nap.

Thoughtful Gift Collections for All Ages

Parent Co’s gift guide- full of thoughtful, tasteful, fun, and interesting gifts for every member of the family.

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Everyone wants to give clever, meaningful gifts. But in this busiest of seasons, you may not have the time to research the inherent value of individual presents.
This year, Parent.co has you covered! We’ve searched high and low to find excellent gifts for every age.

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These gifts were carefully chosen to meet at least three of the following criteria:

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Appearance

It’s clever, useful, or exceptionally well-designed.

Durability

This toy will last long enough to be passed on to another kid.

Quality

The value of this gift is equal to three more ephemeral presents.

Educational value

The toy or game teaches in a fun or imaginative way.

Ethics

Do we feel good about voting for this manufacturer with our dollars?

Joy

The gift is one we would be happy to receive for ourselves or our children.

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Gifts For Baby and Toddler

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Nuby Bandana Bib

Calling all droolers and teethers! The Nuby Bandana Bib’s soft, absorbent cotton will keep baby dry while offering a textured corner for chewing and massaging sore gums. Recommended for age three months and up, this bib is BPA and phthalate-free.

Check it out


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Tangiball

The Tangiball from Discovery Toys is an award-winning toy for ages 12 months and up. The ball never goes flat, the smooth nubs add texture, and squeezing it produces a soft whistling noise. Lightly scented with vanilla, this toy engages all the senses. One of these balls lasted through all three of my kids (even the scent!) and was equally enjoyed by each.

Check it out

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Rainfall Rattle

Babies from nine months to toddler-age will love this musical toy. Roll, shake, or tilt the BPA-free cylinder to see and hear the bright beads cascade gently through eight levels. The sound is soothing, and the toy is durable. The Rainfall Rattle was handed down to my kids, then lasted long enough to be passed on again.

Check it out

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3 in 1 Sit, Stride & Ride Lion

Kids from six to 36 months will roar in delight at this toy! The mane offers light-up buttons to teach colors and numbers, balls to “feed” the lion, and other interactive toys for sitting kiddos. For those taking steps, kids can hold the push bar and walk while hearing encouraging phrases. The lion’s voice will continue to encourage bigger children who want a ride.

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Gifts For Preschoolers

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Goldilocks And The Three Bears Storytime Toys

Read the story, or make up a new one. Either way, this super sweet foam and cardstock play set provides hours of open-ended entertainment that fits neatly on the bookshelf when the fun is done for the day.

Check it out

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balance bikes

Public Bikes Kids Mini Balance Bike

Perhaps the greatest gift our generation has given the one we’re raising is taking pedals off of two wheel bikes. (Maybe it balances out the polluted oceans. Who knows?! Fingers crossed though!) And this happens to be the most stylish we’ve ever seen.

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Let’s Play School Set

Preschoolers love to teach others. This set helps them play school. Use the pointer, write lessons on the dry erase board, and give out report cards! The 152-piece set includes a bell, hall passes, a map, calendar, and more. Everything fits into pockets and the whole thing folds up neatly for storage. My kids loved this. You provide the dry erase markers.

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Wooden Pizza Party

You can’t ever go wrong with Melissa and Doug products, and this Wooden Pizza Party is no exception. The wood pieces stick together with Velcro for easy “cutting” of slices and toppings are added with Velcro as well. My kids played with this set well past preschool age.

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Architectural Unit Block Set

Take building to the next level with these unique hand scrolled blocks. Made of smooth-sanded natural wood, use the set of 44 pieces to build archways, columns, and more. Stores in its own wooden box.

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Gifts For Kids Ages 5-7

 

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The Curiositree: Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature

This is the sort of book you buy because it looks good kicking around your house. And then, as luck (and fantastic design) would have it, the kid you used as an excuse to buy it loves it, too. With simple illustrations reminiscent of Charley Harper, it also serves as fantastic inspiration for budding animal-loving artists.

Check it out

 

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marble run

Marble Run

This pleasing-to-the-eye engineering toy provides hours of fun because kids will quite honestly never run out of ways to create new tracks. With funnels and power booster and curved rails, this Hape wooden marble run has the competition beat.

Check it out

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Magna Tiles

Magna-Tiles 3-D Magnetic Building Tiles

Build with colorful magnetized tiles to create buildings, cars, and more. The 50-piece set has a variety of shapes and colors along with two sets of wheels. Recommended for ages three to nine, but reviewers say that older kids enjoy this toy as well. Check Target.com for larger sets for sharing among multiple children.

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Opinel Le Petit Chef Set – Guard, Knife and Peeler

Because the best way to learn is to do, but the best way to keep all your fingers is to do it safely. This well-crafted chef set is a great gift for foodie youngsters and kids of parents who are tired of being the sous chef.

Check it out

 

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butterfly pavilion

Butterfly Pavilion

The Butterfly Pavilion is recommended for ages four and up, but will be enjoyed by the whole family. You receive the pavilion along with a certificate for the butterfly larvae. In about two weeks, the larvae will arrive and the fun begins! My kids raced into the living room every morning to check on our butterflies and loved feeding the insects after they emerged. Butterfly larvae can be reordered to repeat the process.

Check it out

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CP Toys – Wooden and Steel Child-Sized Real Tools – 15 Pieces – Ages 6+

Kids are only going to stand by with a plastic hammer and styrofoam for so long. This set of real steel and wooden tools will get them started on a lifetime of tinkering and fixing. I mean, think of how much money you’ll save once you’re retired and have a Mr. or Ms. Fixit beholden to your every need?

Check it out

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slim dodgeball

Slimeball Dodge Tag

Slimeball Dodge Tag makes for great, active, outdoor play. One player wears a vest with a sticky pad in the center and the other player tries to tag the first player with slimeballs. Recommended for ages six and up, this game makes for sticky, squishy fun without the mess.

Check it out

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Gifts For Kids Ages 8-10

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Jam online courses for kids

Jam Online Classes for Kids

Jam is “committed to helping kids build confidence, creativity, and talent that will last their lifetimes.” Your child can take classes led by “mentors” in areas ranging from cooking to engineering.

Check it out

 

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rebel girls

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Can’t wait until this book full of bad asses arrives and I can barely read it aloud to my daughter without choking up. By the way, it’s the most funded book in crowdfunding history. The future is bright.

Check it out

 

 

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Jungle Jumparoo

Holy smokes. This is totally bananas. And while it may result in minor injury, it’s smaller than that trampoline they keep bugging you about.

Check it out

 

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pinbox 3000

Pinbox 3000

Alright, so this is still in a Kickstarter campaign, BUT it’s already met its goal. This customizable cardboard tabletop pinball game system allows for endless possibilities of DIY for a little maker (Bonus: if this gift eventually wears out its welcome, just toss it into the recycling bin.)

Check it out

 

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snap circuit Snap Circuits 300

The Snap Circuits 300 set contains lots of project possibilities. Snap together to color-coded pieces to create electrical circuits. Make a light bulb turn on or a fan twirl. Build an integrated circuit for a digital voice recorder, an FM radio module, analog meter, relay, transformer, a 7-segment LED display – and more! This award-winning set is highly rated by parents, including me.

Check it out

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PowerUp Powered Paper Boat Conversion Kit

Add power to their homemade origami boat (waterproof paper required) for some fun at the park or even in the bath.

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lego vacation kitLEGO Creator Vacation Getaway

The LEGO Creator series offers good, old-school building with the ability to use the same set to create three different objects. The Vacation Getaway set is recommended for ages nine to 12 and can become a yacht, summer home, or trailer. It contains two minifigures and accessories for further imaginative play. 

Check it out

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laser maze

Laser Maze

The Think Fun Laser Maze game requires mind-bending logic! Kids set up the pieces to solve the maze and are rewarded with a lit-up laser if correct. For ages eight and up, my son enjoyed this game immensely, and it provided hours of fun. Though it’s advertised as a one-person game, he played with friends, and they worked as a team to solve the puzzles.

Check it out

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Gifts For Tweens

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fuji film polaroid

Fugifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera

Tweens love to take pictures, and they want instant gratification. Give both to your tween with the Fujifilm Mini 8 Instant Film Camera. This cutie takes and prints credit card-sized photos with a simple white border. The built-in flash and 800 speed film makes even novice photographers look good!

Check it out

 

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Yogibo

Yes, it’s basically a bean bag chair. But it’s the Mercedes of bean bag chairs. And what better set-up to while away hours behind a screen or book than in absolute marshmallow-like comfort? (Besides, they have to leave the house some time. And when they do, that baby is ALL YOURS.)

Check it out

 

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exploding kittens

Exploding Kittens

You’ve been playing card games with your kids since the days of Go Fish and Old Maid. So you – and they – have earned this. From the genius mind behind the hilarious comic The Oatmeal, Exploding Kittens will be light years more fun than that for the whole family.

Check it out

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lumi drone

WowWeeLumi Easy-to-Fly Drone with Follow-Me Beacon

A quadricopter drone that is so stable anyone can fly it? Yes, please! Recommended for ages eight and up, this is a great starter drone. You control it with a smart device, and because the drone stabilizes in autopilot, your hands are free to choreograph stunts and play app-based games. It will even follow you when you use the included Follow-Me Beacon. The copter also moves to the beat of music.

Check it out

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Selfie Mic

Tweens love both singing and selfies, making the Selfie Mic a perfect gift. Described as Karaoke meets Selfie, with this device your tween can sound like a star. The partner app offers over three million licensed songs to choose from as well as voice and video effects to add to the experience.

Check it out

Teen

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tile

Tile Mate “Anything Finder”

Help your teen keep track of those new car keys… and everything else. The small device and companion mobile app will help you keep track of all those stubborn items with pinpoint geolocation accuracy.

Check it out

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elephant pants

Cotton Elephant Pants

These cotton elephant pants are comfy, casual, and machine-washable. Sold by the fair-trade company Darn Good Yarn, the pants are handmade by entrepreneurial women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal, allowing women in these countries to earn a living wage.

Check it out

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watch

Aark Collective Watch

This small Austrailian brand focuses on well-designed, quality watches – complete with fancy things like “Swiss and Japanese Quartz movements.” If teens can still read analog clocks these days then maybe yours will find themselves on time now and again.

Check it out

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polaroid printerPolaroid ZIP Instant Mobile Printer

Teens will love printing photos wirelessly straight from their phones with this battery-operated instant mobile printer. It prints three by five inch photos in full color with a sticky back for instant stickers. Download the app to add text emoticons to snaps before printing.

Check it out

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Arduino Uno 3 Ultimate Starter Kit Includes Step by Step instruction guide

So that may not look like the most exciting pile of…junk, but if your teen is a STEM nerd then A) they’re going to rule the world one day, and B) they’re going to love this Arduino kit that will allow them to experiment with hundreds of programming projects.

Check it out

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settlers of catan board gameSettlers of Catan Strategy Board Game

The Settlers of Catan is a strategy board game requiring creativity to gather resources and build settlements. You will need to be flexible and strategic as you navigate the unexpected that comes with each roll of the dice. Recommended for ages 12 and up as well as adults. With 40 great reviews on Target.com, this is the game to get this year! 

Check it out

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mini pocket projector Pocket Projector Micro

This pocket-sized projector connects to smartphones, game consoles, and other devices. It projects up to 50 inches (diagonal) onto just about any surface. Review pictures and watch videos or movies. Reviews on this product are positive, making it a great gift for a teen.

Check it out

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Gifts For Adults

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skillshare

 

Skillshare membership

Skillshare is an e-learning platform with a ton of classes covering a broad range of topics, including cooking, sewing, writing, teaching, technology, photography, business, and crafts. You can purchase gift memberships in three, six, and 12 month packages, which gives the recipient unlimited classes for that time.

Check it out

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bellroy wallet

Bellroy Wallet

Tired of wondering when your dude’s giant wallet is finally going to fall through that gaping hole in the butt of his jeans? Yeah, same here. If it’s time for a slim-down, check out Bellroy’s line of sleek wallets and travel accessories. The company began when they realized that the design of conventional wallets was acually more bulk than function.

Check it out

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5-in-1 Entertainment Center

Give mom or dad the gift of an old-school music experience with a 5-in-1 Entertainment Center. Not only does the vintage-look console feature a turntable for spinning vinyl records, but it also accommodates cassette tapes, CDs, and iPods. This gift will be used for years!

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Artisanal Brewing Collection

Tea drinkers will love this brewing collection kit from Teavana tea. The set contains a Perfectea 16-ounce brewer. Just add hot water and loose leaf tea, then set the brewer on top of a mug, and the tea will drip in. No messy straining of leaves or tea bags. Also comes with a sampler of Teavana teas and rock sugar for a sweet touch.

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gotenna off gridgoTenna Off-Grid Text & GPS

This small device (sold in pairs) uses your smartphone to send texts & GPS locations even when there’s no cellular coverage or wifi available. While this won’t help you to communicate with your far-flung adventurer if you’re cozied up on the couch, it will help your loved one to stay in touch with other members of their party, or allow your family to stay in touch on the ski slopes.

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Sari Silk Wrap Skirt

Support artisans in India by purchasing a Sari Silk Wrap Skirt. Sold by Darn Good Yarn, each skirt is made by co-ops in India that help women sustain year-round employment. Made from recycled saris, the skirts come in a variety of lengths and patterns.

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Bluetooth Beanie

Give the gift of wireless warmth with the Rib Knit Bluetooth Beanie. Comes in four colors, and the rechargeable battery lasts up to six hours for making calls or listening to music on the built-in microphone. Perfect for adults or teens who are always on the go.

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Posted on Categories Holiday