All posts by Guest

Christmas Decor: Benefits of LED Christmas Lights

Each December families all across America decorate their homes with beautiful, colorful, decorative lights for the Christmas season. Traditionally, large incandescent light bulbs were used for this purpose. However, in recent years LED Christmas lights have grown in popularity, and they are being used more commonly each year. If you have not yet switched out your traditional incandescent Christmas lights for new LED lights, you may be wondering what benefits can be gained by using LED Christmas Lights. These Christmas light decorating tips will help you to see why you should switch from incandescent Christmas lights to LED Christmas lights.

 

Cost and Efficiency

Cost is perhaps one of the most motivating factors that lead people to switch to LED Christmas lights. While LED Christmas lights will cost you roughly the same to purchase and replace as incandescent lights, their operating costs are significantly lower. The cost of running LED Christmas lights is about 90 percent lower than their incandescent counterparts. This equates to substantial savings over the course of one Christmas season. So while it may seem like it will be expensive to replace all of your incandescent Christmas lights with LED’s, you will make back that money quickly in energy savings.

 

LED Christmas lights will also save you money in that you won’t have to replace them as often. LED Christmas lights last three to four times longer than incandescent Christmas lights, which means that you will not have to worry about strands burning out for a few years.

 

Easier Storage

Another fact that makes LED lights more cost effective than incandescent lights is that they store better. Incandescent Christmas lights are very fragile, and for this reason they often break while they are in storage causing them to need to be replaced. LED lights are much more durable and are able to withstand a fair amount of abuse without breaking; this helps to keep replacement costs down.

 

Safety

Many people know that incandescent Christmas lights can be dangerous since they give off most of their energy in the form of heat. However, many people do not know just how big of a problem incandescent lights are during the Christmas season. Due to how hot they can get, incandescent Christmas lights start many fires each Christmas season. LED lights on the other hand do not heat up, which makes them the much safer option for you families Christmas lighting.

 

As you can see, many benefits can be gained by switching to LED Christmas lights, the most important benefit being improved safety for you and your family. This next Christmas season, help to ensure your families safety by switching to LED Christmas lights.

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part II)

In the last blog we looked at some fascinating tradition beginnings…let’s explore four more, shall we?

Santa Claus

How can you have any Christmas traditions without having a child’s favorite? Santa Claus! The legend of Santa Claus begins in the fourth century when the generous Bishop of Myra, located in today’s Turkey, gave gifts to others, especially to children. According to stories, Saint Nicholas, the bishop, could also perform miracles which made people even more devoted to him. He passed away—coincidently in December—in the year 340 and his popularity increased all over Europe when his body was moved to Bari, Italy. In Russia, St. Nicholas was made a patron saint of their country and was well-known by his white, flowing beard, red cape and bishop’s cap. In France, St. Nicholas was the patron saint of lawyers; the patron saint of sailors in Greece; and he was the patron saint of travelers and children in Belgium.

Even though European devotees of St. Nicholas decreased after the Protestant Reformation, the spirit of St. Nicholas remained alive in Holland. There, his name was converted into Sinterklaas and the Dutch kids left their wooden shoes by their fireplaces; if the children had been good, Sinterklaas would put goodies in their shoes. In the seventeenth century, Dutch immigrants came to America and brought with them the legend of Sinterklaas; the name was changed once again into the American English version, Santa Claus.

Many other countries celebrate Christmas and each one calls St. Nicholas something different. In England he’s known as Father Christmas; Puerto Rico, Spain and Mexico have The Three Kings; Pere Noël, Christ Child or Father Christmas is what they call him in France; he’s La Befana in Italy; In Austria and Switzerland he’s called the Christ Child or Christkindl; and other countries call him Kris Kringle.

As a gift for his children, Clement C. Moore wrote a poem in 1822 that was called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. When it got published, it was changed to “The Night Before Christmas” and became famous. Moore describes Santa Claus in this way:

“He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.”

This description of the red-suited man is how everyone—adults as well as children—identifies Santa Claus today.

Holly and Greenery

Christmas was celebrated in the middle of winter in Northern Europe. This was right during the time that those cold, winter winds howled so loud that people thought the winds carried demons and ghosts with it. It was thought that, because it stayed green all winter, the holly must be magical. So the Europeans hung this holly above their home’s doorways to ward off evil spirits. The Europeans also used greenery inside their homes to enliven the mood and make the air fresher through the long, harsh, boring winter.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May, a 34 year old copywriter for Montgomery Ward, was asked to help with customer’s Christmas gifts in the year of 1939 by writing a book; instead of giving out coloring books to children as they had every year prior, Montgomery Ward wanted to save money by doing something different. So Robert May sat down and wrote a book that was based on his own childhood experiences of being teased as well as the story of “The Ugly Duckling”. He originally thought of Reginald or Rollin for the name of his main character but ended up choosing something else and entitled his story, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, a tale about a misfit reindeer. As he wrote the fable, he chose his four year old daughter to be the guinea pig—is it any surprise that she loved the story?

In 1947, May’s book was commercially printed and then the next year a nine-minute cartoon was shown in theaters. But when Johnny Marks, songwriter and brother-in-law to Robert May, wrote the music and lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the wonder of Rudolph came alive. The song was turned down by many singers because they didn’t want to grapple with the Santa Claus legend. But in 1949 Gene Autry’s wife encouraged him to record the song and it sold two million copies that same year! Second only to “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” quickly became one the best-selling songs of all time. In 1964, a television cartoon was made of Rudolph and was narrated by Burl Ives. Rudolph the reindeer has developed into a beloved Christmas idol and this 45 minute Christmas cartoon is still a Christmas favorite.

Mistletoe

During winter festivities 200 years before Jesus’ birth, Druid priests utilized mistletoe. In fact, they were in awe of it because this plant stays green through the entire winter without having any roots! The mistletoe was viewed as a sign of peace and it’s claimed that enemies of the Romans would put down their weapons and hug if they met underneath the mistletoe. It was also considered to have magical healing powers by the Celtic people. They used it to treat infertility, poison and to keep away the evil spirits.

In Scandinavia, the people related mistletoe to the goddess of love, Frigga. Maybe this is where the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe stems from. It’s said that anyone who kiss underneath mistletoe will have good luck and happiness during the next year.

There are many more Christmas traditions but they’re too numerous to list here. I’m sure you and your family take part in at least one of these eight Christmas traditions—maybe you’ve even started one of your own. So enjoy your traditions and family and have a very Merry Christmas!

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part I)

Christmas is such a joyous time of year and soon your children will be hanging their stockings and anxiously waiting for Santa to arrive on what is, to kids, the longest night of the year—Christmas Eve. Christmas brings family together to share good food, laughter and traditions—new ones as well as the old ones. But while you’re sharing in those Christmas traditions, did you ever stop to wonder where they began?

Christmas Stockings

As the tale goes, a nobleman became very depressed after the passing of his wife and foolishly spent all of his money. This left his three daughters unable to marry as they didn’t have dowries and it looked as if they would grow into old maids.

St. Nick—or Santa Claus as he’s known today—had heard of the daughters unfortunate circumstances. One night he anonymously rode to the nobleman’s house, entered and dropped a bag of gold into each of the newly washed stockings that the girls had hung to dry by the fireplace. The following morning, the three ladies and their father were quite surprised to find the bags of gold in each stocking. Now the nobleman had plenty of money for his daughters to get married—and they did! Kids have been hanging stockings on Christmas Eve ever since then.

Many years ago, Christmas stockings were usually hung by a fireplace; but since most homes today don’t have fireplaces, just about anywhere you can find to hang your stocking will make a good spot. The stocking is supposed to be filled with gifts from Santa Claus. For those children that are naughty during the year, it’s said that these children won’t find anything in their stocking on Christmas morning.

Christmas Trees

In Germany in the sixteenth century, outdoor and indoor fir trees were adorned with colored paper, apples, gold-covered candies and roses. It’s claimed that while driving home one December night, a theologian got the idea to place candles on his Christmas tree after seeing the bright stars shining through a fir tree’s branches. By the seventeenth century, decorating a Christmas tree was very popular in German towns and spread to other areas of Europe.

Prince Albert of Germany brought the Christmas tree home to England and his wife, Queen Victoria, where, in 1848, a portrait was made of the royal family around their Christmas tree in Windsor Castle; thus causing the Christmas tree to become famous in England. This portrait was then brought to the United States in 1850 and by the late nineteenth century Americans favored decorating the Christmas tree in their homes—and that tradition is still going strong today.

Candy Canes

A modern story of the symbolism of the candy cane is the colors represent Jesus Christ: white signifies His purity, the three stripes are the Holy Trinity and the red color of the stripes is for the blood He shed for us. However, there isn’t any proof that this story is fact. The true legend of the candy cane dates back to the sixteenth century when Europeans started decorating Christmas trees. The people mostly decorated the trees with food—like cookies and candy. One of those candies was a white, straight candy stick. In the seventeenth century, it was suggested to craftsmen by a German choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral that these sticks should be made into the shape of a shepherd’s staff.

At ceremonies such as a Nativity scene the candy canes were handed to the restless children in hopes that this treat would keep them calm. It must’ve worked because it soon became popular at ceremonies through all of Europe to pass out candy canes to the children.

In 1847, a German settler of Wooster, OH decided to adorn his Christmas tree with candy canes. It’s said that over fifty years later, a resident of Albany, GA created candy cane goodies to give to local shops, family and friends. Then his brother-in-law designed a machine that would produce candy canes at a much faster rate automatically; this removed the tedious work that was involved with making the candy canes and because of this inventive machine, the candy cane became a favorite treat.

Christmas Wreath

Like the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath began in Germany many centuries ago. The circular wreath represents a life that doesn’t have an end and they were made of evergreens. The wreaths were set on tables with four violet-colored, evenly placed candles put in the wreath; a fifth candle was set in the center and this inner candle was pink. Once a week one of the four candles was lit and a prayer of hope was recited. On Christmas Day the inner pink candle was lit to symbolize Jesus’ birth.

Many wreaths are ornamented with red berries and thorns, both of which are the image of Jesus’ journey. The red berries are His self-sacrifice and His blood; the thorns stand for the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head on the day He was crucified. Berries and thorns are the two most popular items to have on a wreath but there are many other things that can be put on a wreath as well such as bows.

Many Germans started hanging their Christmas wreaths on their front doors and in the sixteenth century, Christians adopted this tradition and it continues to this very day. Wreaths are even hung over fireplaces, on walls or in windows.

There are more of these interesting Christmas traditions to come in part two—so stay tuned!

Holiday Gathering Activities

It’s wonderful to have family staying over during the holidays. However, after the traditional meal is devoured you might wish you had a list titled holiday gathering activities. Memories are made when you are active together, laughing and having fun, and when all are included from little cousin Jimmy to great grandma Betty. Here are a few suggestions for activities that will get the fun rolling and make for treasured family memories.

Watch Home Videos

Ask each branch of the family to bring some of their favorite home videos to share. Simply pop up a big bowl of popcorn, throw pillows on the floor for the little ones, and have a family movie festival.

Do Something Outside

It can be as simple as a walk in a park, or you can plan an ice-skating party complete with hot chocolate and mulled wine. If there is snow, maybe have a snow man making contest and get everyone involved.

Win it in a Minute

These games are based on the hit TV show, Minute to Win it. It is easy to do a web search and find just the right games for your family to play. Most of the materials are things found around the house or can be found at a dollar store. Find five or six games to play and take turns pitting age groups against each other.

Talent Show

Your family is filled with talented folk and those that just like to show off. With a little planning ahead (so they know to actually bring their clarinet), you can organize a family talent show that may just become a yearly event. Set up an area as a stage and advise your family that it’s just for fun and is to be a safe place for family to express their interests and talent.

It doesn’t take much for a family to have fun together. Sometimes they just need a little leadership, encouragement and a push in the right direction. That’s where you come in.

Nine Wonderful Children’s Wintry Party Themes

The winter months are quickly approaching and a children’s birthday party that lands during those months is challenging to plan. But if you use some creativity, each season offers lots of potentially fun activities or themes which will make any party special. Yes, wintertime is just full of great children’s wintry party themes!

A Winter Carnival

Make up games that children would play at a fair or carnival but use a winter theme. You could set up stations for different games. For instance, establish a booth with tin cans lined up on the edge of a table and have the children try to knock them down by propelling a snowball at the cans. You could let the children have sledding races or create stations for snowball bowling. Hand out prizes to the winners that are fitting of a carnival like a stuffed animal and, since it’s a carnival, make sure to serve fun carnival food like pretzels, cotton candy, popcorn and hot chocolate.

A Snowman Competition

This could end up being one of the best activities! Split the kids into even teams and place the teams at different locations in your yard. This might be a good activity for the front yard—providing you have the space—and you can get a jump on decorating for Christmas at the same time! Old accessories and clothing should be collected ahead of time to supply the kids with something to clothe their snowman. After all, there’s nothing worse than a naked snowman! Also, don’t forget about supplying them with carrots, raisins or berries and sticks for noses, eyes, mouths and arms—what’s a snowman without a face? You and other parents should stand by as judges and, when everyone is finished with their snowman, pick the best one and present the winning team with some kind of an award. Snowballs, a snowman pizza and a snowman ice cream cake make tasty treats to serve inside to hungry children after all the excitement.

Snow Castle Party

Who says you need sand and sunshine to make a castle? That white stuff in your back—or front—yard can turn out to be an asset. Throw a snow castle constructing party! At this party, kids should come all bundled up and ready to spend lots of time outside using plastic toy shovels, beach pails and different kinds of carving tools to make a castle out of snow. You can have the children work together to make one big castle or make it into a competition between two teams—either way, the kids are sure to have a blast! When the fun outdoors is finished, bring the kids indoors to warm up with some delicious chili or soup and hot chocolate; but don’t forget those marshmallows! Snow white frosting and flaked coconut will make a great wintery topping for just about any dessert.

Winter Olympics

Arrange competitions and games for kids to enjoy that are built on ideas from the winter Olympic events. Put together events of snowshoe racing, snowball throwing contests and snow mound jumping, just to name a few. Be sure to have a different award for first, second and third place winners for each event. Decorations should be set to the theme of the winter Olympics—draw the Olympic rings in the snow in your back yard and use food coloring to show off the Olympic ring colors. You can also hang up paper torches inside your house and the birthday cake should be red, white and blue.

Winter Pool Party

Why should a few inches of snow stop the children from enjoying one of summer’s best activities? Indoor pools render the chance for kids to swim, splash and celebrate in a regulated climate while the weather outdoors may be frigid. You may be able to rent a pool in a community center, hotel or fitness center and decorations can be left to the imagination. You could just have tropical-colored decorations to symbolize summer. But wouldn’t it be fun to have the best of both seasons? Purchase inflatable palm trees and decorate them with paper snowflakes. How about snowflake-printed towels lain over lawn chairs? The cake could be a large swimming pool with polar bear figurines on top.

Ice Skating

Bring the children to a safe skating lake or pond for the party or rent an ice rink for a few hours. If you choose to rent an ice rink, you’ll need to rent one four to six weeks in advance; be sure to ask about package deals and if you can bring in food from home. You’ll want to have parents nearby that are good skaters so that they can help the kids that don’t know how to ice skate. Play some fun, upbeat music and let the children free-skate. Integrate a few games such as a skating version of red light/green light. The birthday child stands in front of the rest of the children but a little bit of distance away with his or her back toward them. When the child says, “green light” the rest of the kids will start to skate ahead; when the child says, “red light” and turns around, all the children have to be stopped. If the birthday child catches anyone moving forward then that person has to go back to the starting line. The first child to tag the birthday child wins the game and then takes their turn in that spot. For decorations you could hang up icicles, paper ice skates and snowflakes around the rink. If you got a package deal, hot dogs or pizza usually is included. The cake could be in the form of an icy pond with figure skaters adorning the top or in the shape of an ice skate.

Snowflake Ball

Although snow may get old for adults as the season wears on, for children the magic never fades. For this type of party, rent a banquet hall and decorate it with icicle lights and snowflakes dangling over their heads while they’re on the dance floor. Use synthetic snow and sparkles to create a wintery invitation in the entryway. For the table, purchase shimmering white and blue place settings on a snowflake tablecloth. An artificial snow making machine and ice sculptures would be an enhancement to the magical feel of the party. You can’t forget the entertainment! Make sure to have some party games that are suitable for the snowflake party such as Snowflake Trivia. Get several adults to write winter or Christmas trivia questions on paper cut-out snowflakes—one question per snowflake. Then each child pulls a snowflake out of a bowl and tries to answer the question; the child who answers the most questions wins. Or you could hire someone to give basic ballroom dance lessons. For the menu, snowflake cookies, white hot chocolate, a tray of veggie and cheese pieces that are cut into snowflakes and a snowflake cake would be a hit.

Snow Sculpting

Snow sculpting is a lot of fun and what child wouldn’t love to do this? Hand out to each child a portion of snow to use. Make up ahead of time a box full of “props” that the kids can pick from to adorn their sculpture with. Items could include: masks, boas, beads, sunglasses, flowers, leaves and rocks. Pick a time limit—say, an hour—and let the children develop their best sculpture during that time frame. Take a vote to confirm a winner in several different categories like “best executed”, “most creative” and “best over-all”. For the cake, you could have one specially made that looks like an ice sculpture!

Penguin Party

Just about all children love animals and who doesn’t love penguins? They’re so cute and would make a great party theme! Decorating can be very simple: white and black streamers and balloons hung on the walls and ceiling of the party room and you could buy a penguin-printed tablecloth with black place settings and white napkins. If you want an extra touch, place some plush penguins of different sizes around the room. Entertaining the kids will be just as easy as decorating. You can show them a movie like “Happy Feet” or “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”, give them a penguin craft to make and play some standard games in which the children will have to imitate the penguin like penguin waddle relay races. The kids will absolutely love your penguin cupcakes cake!

Whether you’re trying to get rid of those winter blues or planning a birthday party, one of these winter party themes are sure to be a hit. You’ll want to check out our great website for everything you’ll need for your party!

Encouraging Thankful Kids

When children are in their toddler years, it’s often difficult to get a “please” and “thank you” out of them. This is because they haven’t hit that developmental milestone yet. But when they get into elementary school, not showing gratitude is no longer a tolerated right of childhood. So as parents, we have an opportunity to create thankful kids. There are two important ways to encourage kids to be thankful – being helpful and having a giving spirit.

By encouraging children to be helpful, you allow them to strengthen bonds with the ones they are helping. These bonds create nurturing and long-lasting friendships. There are different ways to encourage a child to be helpful.

  • Helping with chores: when children are young, they want to help because they want to emulate their parents. Encourage this natural desire to help, even if they don’t do the chores right. It will pay off when they’re older and actually can do the chores properly!
  • Help plan someone else’s birthday party: whether it’s a sibling, friend or relative, encourage children to be a part of planning someone else’s party. This will foster a strong bond with others because they must think about what someone else wants, not just what they want themselves.
  • Teach someone a skill: every child has something that he or she is good at. When given support, that skill improves and bolsters confidence. Give children many opportunities to pass that confidence along.

Kids may have a hard time giving away something that belongs to them. Think about all those times you tried to thin out the avalanche of toys in the closet or when you offered a part of your child’s snack to another child. When children learn to share – both their possessions and their time – they learn that other people matter, making the transition from “I’m important” to “we’re important.” Being giving can be a difficult lesson to teach, but here are some ideas:

  • Allow kids to be involved in choosing which toys to give up, then take the toys to a local emergency shelter. Take this opportunity to talk to your child about what it means to not have a home and reasons why that might happen.
  • Help children discover what interests them, and connect these interests to causes and activities that provide volunteer opportunities. For example, if your child is interested in dinosaurs and there happens to be a museum nearby that has a dinosaur exhibit, ask if the museum has volunteer opportunities for children.

Being helpful and giving will lead to a greater sense of gratitude. Be a positive role model and help your child develop these habits. You will discover that the more thankful kids are, the happier, healthier, and more positive they are!

Calling Cards for Kids

cc619_cardWhen it comes to kids calling cards, there are so many fun possibilities. Children like to announce what’s going on in their world, and calling cards are a unique way for them to get the word out.

Ages 5 – 12

Young children have lots going on in their lives. Here are some ways they can make use of cards.

  • Sports games – Calling cards are available for all sports. Your child can have cards with their name on them. They can write upcoming game dates on the cards and pass them out to friends and family.
  • Party reminders – Do you remember being a child and worrying that no one would come to your party? A reminder in the form of a calling card will help ensure that no one forgets the important date!
  • Upcoming school plays or award ceremonies – Your child’s personalized “save-the-date” calling card will help remind everyone about upcoming special events in the child’s life.
  • Personalized gift cards – You can save a bundle by using personalized calling cards on birthday and other holiday gifts. Your child can add a personal message to the card if they like.

Ages 13 – 15

Children in their early teen years are all about socializing. They will find dozens of uses for their personalized calling cards. We probably don’t have to give you, or them, ideas. Surprise them with the gift of calling cards and let them have fun.

Teens can write messages to friends on their calling cards. Shy children can use them to help break the ice when meeting new friends. You may even find your teen handing you one with an important reminder written on it.

Ages 16 and Up

Oh, the many uses of calling cards for older teens! Think about the possibilities:

  • Calling cards are a great way to hand out their email address.
  • Your teen can use them to give friends their new cell phone number.
  • Calling cards can be used to arrange social meetings amongst friends – “meet me at (fill in the blank)” for example.
  • This age group may want to use calling cards as unique invitations to a party.

Parents

Calling cards with your kid’s name on them aren’t just for kids. Parents can use them too.

You can carry cards with your children’s names. When you meet other parents at the park, school, or another activity you can add your name and number to the card and hand it to them.

If your child has allergies or special needs, both you and the child may want to carry some cards listing the specifics. These can be handed out to teachers, schools, day care, or babysitters.

Check out our website for more ideas and information on how to order calling cards for kids.

Party Planning Tips for Children’s Birthday Parties

A child’s birthday party may seem easy to plan, but anyone who has done it knows it is no easy task! Party planning takes a vast amount of time, planning, and energy. With all of the decisions to be made, sometimes it can be hard to know just where to begin! Here are some must-know party planning tips that will make throwing your child’s birthday celebration much easier!

Theme: When planning a party, the best way to start is to first decide on a theme. What is something your child really loves or has an interest in? Whether it be cats or dogs, tea parties or sports, dinosaurs or cars, the perfect theme is right at your fingertips!

Invitations: Once you have picked your theme, the next step is to find and send out invitations. Invites are a great way to set the tone of the party, so try finding ones with graphics that go along with the theme of your celebration. This will not only delight your child, but will also get your guests excited too. Check out our selection of invitations that are perfect for all of your party needs!

Decorations: Atmosphere is key when it comes to a fabulous party, so get creative! If you’re DIY handy, this is a great way to incorporate your theme into your décor. Not so crafty? No problem! Head straight to the party supply store and knock out all of your decorating needs in one stop!

Budget: Spending a fortune on a party is easy to do, so be sure to make a budget. Remember, kids just want to play and have fun, so make it simple. Games, crafts, and kid-friendly snacks are the ultimate combo for an excellent party. And don’t worry about loading guests up with goody bags. Stickers and trinkets are nice, but most parents find it unnecessary. Talk about a money-saver!

For after-party extras, be sure to check out our large selection of stationary for those must-send thank you notes!

Children’s party ideas: 3 sweet cookie recipes

Looking for some easy and sweet cookie recipes for your next children’s party? Then look no further! Below you will find 3 terrific cookie recipes that will satisfy even the pickiest eater, and create leftovers that the whole family will enjoy.

Peanut Butter Sweeties

Similar to a peanut butter blossom, this cookie variation features the beloved chocolate kiss atop a peanut butter cookie, and can be made in less than an hour. Head to the store and buy a bag of your favorite candies, and follow this recipe by Miss Betty Crocker. This recipe can be used for anything from a birthday party to even a Valentine’s Day Themed affair, where you replace the chocolate kiss with a chocolate heart.

Lovely Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

These simple (and cute!) cookies are as easy to make as they sound. It’s as easy as following baking directions for a cake. Simply, get a box of Devil’s Food cake mix, follow the preparation instructions, throw in a dash of vanilla, some sprinkles, maybe add some M&M’s for color and flair, and mix it all in a bowl. Once thickened, roll into balls and bake per the directions. Voila! Fudgy, cake cookies for all of your partygoers to enjoy.

Snickers Bar Stuffed Cookies

Gosh… did you mouth just water? This recipe takes the disguise of a regular chocolate cookie recipe (the unbeatable classic loved by generations) and replaces the chocolate chips with Snickers bars. Simply, make your favorite cookie recipe, chill for 30 minutes, remove from the fridge, press pieces of Snickers into the dough balls, form into cookies, bake. Seriously, if you thought chocolate chip cookies were good before? You must try this recipe. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

Encouraging writing skills: Boys edition

It’s a common misconception that boys are better at math and girls are better at writing and language arts. This popular belief, according to developmental psychologists actually has no basis in reality, but is more of a reflection of the beliefs and teaching of society.

These days, teachers and parents of girls are often encouraged to allow their girls the same math and science play opportunities boys have, because there’s no genetic predisposition to disliking bugs or engineering.

But what can parents of boys do to ensure that they are encouraging writing skills for their son in language arts and communication?

One increasingly popular category of children’s literature has emerged for “reluctant readers” and it’s often called “The gross-out book.”  By appealing to a boy’s enthusiasm for passing gas and other bodily functions, these books appeal to a child’s sense of the taboo.  Luckily, most boys have other interests that parents can appeal to, in case they’re more interested in helping their sons develop a social awareness that extends beyond the idea that “Everybody Poops.”

Homeschoolers and other educators remind us that children’s interests can often be used as a gateway for other learning. Put another way, it isn’t necessary to “make learning fun” because learning is already fun. For boys who enjoy playing video games, there are gamer magazines and websites with plenty of cheats and playing advice to help turn a reluctant reader into an eager reader.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that “Hop on Pop” is far less interesting to an 8 yr old boy than “Six tricks for Minecraft world domination.” The lesson here is for parents to find written materials that support the child’s interests instead of boring him to tears.

Another tool for helping boys harness their literary skills is a nice set of boys stationery.  Parents can use stationary as a learning tool by packing notes in lunch boxes and leaving notes throughout the house.  Making a habit of leaving scavenger-hunt-like clues can be fun for kids to decode especially when there’s a prize at the end.  Parents who are in the habit of leaving notes are illustrating the practical aspects of written communication and giving their son reasons to write.  Finding pleasure in written communication can be the difference between “I don’t want to do my writing homework” and “Hey Mom, did I spell Disneyland correctly?”

Some educational reform advocates are concerned that kids are being taught the mechanics of reading and writing at the expense of their enthusiasm. When a child is interested in something and excited about it, it’s difficult to keep them from learning more. One of the best things a parent can do to help their children succeed in reading and writing is to model the importance of communication and provide the child with the tools to use it in his or her life.

Check out our selection of boys stationery to help your little guy embrace his passion for the written word.