Weekend Links

Weekend Giveaway: Sparkle Stories

Today”s weekend giveaway is for one of our new family favorites:  Sparkle Stories! If you’re looking for a unique gift this holiday season, may I suggest this site?  The tales are engaging and fun.  A subscription a great gift that doesn’t take up any room in the toy box, kids can share, and will last beyond the holiday season.

This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you.

From the Sparkle Stories website:

“Sparkle is an online resource for high-quality audio stories for children and families. Each week Sparkle Stories delivers delightful audio stories to subscribers around the world.

We offer three original Story Series, plus a fourth Series with classic stories, songs and games, all designed to entertain and inspire the whole family.

Audio stories, or stories told out-loud, are untethered to images viewed on a screen. The child is free and able to paint her own pictures out of her own imagination. She becomes relaxed and entranced – committing herself fully to a fantastic adventure.

Sparkle Stories are fun, Sparkle Stories are inspiring, and Sparkle Stories are good for young minds and spirits! Our stories inspire a sense of wonder and magic in life, encourage creativity and a strong sense of self, and even illuminate common childhood challenges.”

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Travel Games: Fun Ways for Kids to Pass the Time on Road Trips

The following post is by editor Kara Fleck. It has been updated for 2011.

Like many families at this time of year, the Flecks have been hitting the road, visiting relatives for the holidays.  We”re fortunate that the majority of our extended family lives with a day”s drive for us so we can travel to visit our loved ones on a regular basis.

Our kids travel fairly well in the car, in fact my middle two will usually sleep once we get on the road. We”ll see how the baby does, but so far she travels pretty easily for a four month old.

But, for my oldest, who doesn”t nap, a long trip can be tedious.  Even kids who travel well can sometimes get bored and antsy during a long road trip.  We have a few travel games that we like to play as a family to help to pass the time.

A few of our favorite travel games …

The License Plate Game

I can remember playing this while going on road trips with my grandparents as a kid.  They had a set of cardboard game boards with a license plate for every state.  You moved the red plastic slider up when you found a new state”s plate. (I wonder what happened to those?)

Today, I have a license plate app on my smartphone that lets us play this game when we travel.  But, you can still find travel game boards, like this one from Melissa & Doug.

You can print some car maps from Alicia at Magical Childhood The website you can use, too.  has a license plate game and also printable

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Holiday Music Memories

The following was written by music contributor Jennifer Brown.

Holidays are a time when memories are made—whether it’s as simple as a country ham, biscuits and grits breakfast every Christmas morning or as elaborate as a proposal of marriage.  We’re making memories daily and annually without even trying; they’re just there.  So often there’s a soundtrack that goes along with those memories.

That musical soundtrack has a way of creeping into our memory bank and can instantly take us back to a place and time when a particular song at a particular moment touched our lives in some way.

My favorite Christmas song renditions are those that remind me of listening to my parent’s albums at the holidays when I was a child.

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An Uncomplicated Holiday: Resisting the Rush

The following post is by Megan Tietz and originally appeared in December 2009. With just a little less than two weeks until Christmas, I thought her words would serve as a good, gentle reminder to keep the holidays simple for our kids and for ourselves. Enjoy! – Kara

With just ten days left until Christmas Day, the pace is beginning to quicken in my home.

Does it feel that way for you?

It seems that no matter how devoted I am to the pursuit of an uncomplicated holiday, the days leading up to Christmas and New Years feel more and more frenzied.  I find myself doing frequent “tension checks” throughout the day – noticing the curt responses to my children, the nagging weight of gifts still not purchased, and the inner turmoil over the dwindling Christmas budget.

When I take a moment to step back and assess what helps me resist the rush in the countdown to Christmas, I’ve noticed three practices that inspire me to an enjoyment of the season rather than an attitude of “I must endure.”

1) Stay out of the stores.

We’ve thoughtfully planned out our children’s Christmas presents, using the “Something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, something to read” idea as we made our purchases.  Yet a simple dash into the discount store or a brisk walk through the mall leaves me feeling bombarded with all that my children will not be receiving this year.

My days are so much more simple and guilt-free when I can stay out of the stores (and curtail my internet browsing as well!).

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