The Best Gender Neutral Toys for Kids 5-9 years old

I’m so excited to share an updated list of toys for boys and girls ages 5-9 years old!

I strongly believe that toys should grow with your children and not just be five minutes of play then tossed. Toy companies (and toy marketing departments) are in the business of selling toys. They want you to buy more of their toys, so buying “open ended” and non-gender specific, good quality can provide years of play with children. Instead of having closets full of toys or a toy room full of half broken toys, wouldn’t it be better to have toys that last a long time? Toys that “play for your child” your child observes and watches, instead of toys that open your child’s imagine, will quickly loose their appeal. Let’s look at some fun gift ideas to include on your wish lists.

STEM

Children who are age 5 and older are most likely in elementary school. Even preschool children are introduced to STEM toys, but elementary school children have an amazing opportunity to really start to dive into STEM because of amazing brain and fine motor development. Children are often able to recognize all the letters in the alphabet, many can write their full name and some are even able to read simple sentences!

These newly acquired skills open up the doors to cognitive skills, like logical reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving which means they are able to build with legos, solve more complex puzzles and start building bigger and more amazing structures! “Play Is The Work of the Child” Maria Montessori

Snap Circuits Classic

We love this toy at our house. We got this for Christmas last year, our then 5 year old, built it with her dad. A year later she can easily follow the directions and build every project within the guide book by herself.

Magnet Building Tiles

There are many different brands of magnet building tiles. And they are not all created equal. Although they can be a significant investment into a toy set, so depending on your budget shop what fits your family budget best. The set I’ve linked are highly rated, ours were a gift and we love them.

BRIO Builder

This hidden gem builder construction set is going on our wish list. The kit has easy-to-use construction tools such as hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches, wooden and plastic parts as well as wheels, pivots and bolts – everything a young inquisitive mind needs.

Real Hand Tools

Is your child ready for their own real tools? Then these are perfect for small hands that are ready to build! Most schools are no longer teaching building in school, but with appropriate super vision at home this is the perfect way to DIY together! (Tools are not toys and should always be used with adult supervision.)

Wooden Marble Run Construction

Award Winning Hape Quadrilla Wooden Marble Run Construction – The Cyclone is another item going on our wish list this year. I have friends with this toy and their children spend so much time playing with this and building such elaborate runs for their marbles.

Kids Beginner Microscope

This beginner compound microscope is a fun way to children to explore the tiniest things around them as they start to ask questions about the natural world around them.

Pocket Microscope

A microscope on the go! Compact, Lightweight and Portable. Young explorers can use this simple hand held pocket microscope. High optical clarity make it a great field microscope for professionals and hobbyists as well. Look at plants, look at microscopic wildlife from a nearby pond or everyday objects become amazing discoveries!

LEGO Classic

By age five many children are ready for classic legos. Award winning and loved by children and adults alike enjoy building with this building toy. While there are countless kits, this basic lego box has many of the pieces that are a great set to start with. There is a book with ideas to build, but I love watching our daughter build using her own imagination. Insider tip: this kit includes a block separator!

Brain Teasers Game

Think tetris, but your kids touch and move real pieces! Our 6 year old uses this game during quiet time or between activities when we need a little downtime. I love that it is not a screen, play changes each time and it comes with a really nice carrying case.

Stomp Rocket Original Dueling Rocket Launcher

Several of the kids in our neighborhood have stomp rockets, so we don’t actually own one. But they come our nearly every time the children get together to play. It’s so much fun and the kids can play independently for almost an hour taking turns.

Games

Stomp Rocket Original Dueling Rocket Launcher

Several of the kids in our neighborhood have stomp rockets, so we do not have a set. But every time the children get together to play these come out! I love that the kids can play independently for nearly an hour! They do a great job taking turns and have so much fun.

Goodminton

Goodmiton is fun outdoor paddle game (or maybe in a garage or large open indoor space). It comes with 2 wood paddles, the real tip here is that it comes with 4 birdies, 2 slow speed and 2 fast speed. I love this step approach of learning the game with slow birdies first. It’s great for developing hand, eye coordination and an introduction to paddle sports.

Archery Set

Get away from screen time and let your kid be their ow hero! Archery helps develop fine motor skills, accuracy skills and hand eye-coordination. This kid friendly set is really cool!

Kids Walkie Talkies

We got walkie talkies before the girls were ready to use them, we just knew they were going to be a big hit! And last summer we took them out and our two girls have had so much fun playing with them together and with friends and family who come to visit.

Simon

A classic game that works on memory and family competition! We have a small travel size Simon we like to take on trips that fits into a side backpack pocket.

Classic Vintage Pinball Game

A classic game pinball style game that is great size for any table and still easy enough to pack and bring along on family trips or a game night at a friend’s house!

Labyrinth

Another classic game to get kids away from screens is this maze. Labyrinth is perfect for developing motor skills, concentration, perception, reasoning and most of all, patience!

Fluxx

A road trip must have! Played with two, or as a group game, this entertaining card game is perfect for family games for game night, camping games, beach games or road trips. It has tons of 5 star reviews, and is super easy to teach to a group of people. It’s defiantly going on our wish list this year!

I Saw It First! Egypt

It’s like “where’s waldo” or “I spy” but in a game with pieces. If your kids like i spy books, then they’ll have so much fun with this game! This game is a hidden gem and gaining in popularity. Great for after school or in between activities or when you need a little downtime.

Light Up Tracing Pad Teal

Our six year old received a Crayola light up tracing pad for her birthday this year, it continues to be such a well loved “toy.” Often seen sitting on her desk or even by her bed, she loves to create (trace) pictures from the templates we got with the pad. Super tip: There are even more templates that you can download from the Crayola website. We have animals, horses and fashion dolls.

Gem Blocks

I’ll admit this isn’t a “forever toy” it is a lot of fun activity. Our girls got this as a gift and although it says age 8 and up, younger kids are able to do it with supervision.

Kids Pod Swing Seat

Ok, so I want this for myself, it looks so cozy, great for snuggling during quiet time or enjoy gently swinging indoor or outdoor! Pro tip: order an extra cushion.

That’s the end, if you made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back! Tomorrow Amazon’s Black Friday starts, but most importantly its Thanksgiving! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving day and enjoy spending time with the people you love. Don’t let the shopping get in the way of making memories.

I’ll leave a link to my Amazon Black Friday shopping list here: https://a.co/cT5LglN

I’ll be updating it throughout the day as I see deals pop up! Thank you for your support of my blog and for sticking around to the end!

xo,

Christine

The Best Bread Recipe to Make at Home (No-Knead!)

Is there anything better than homemade, fresh bread? Maybe a nice steak on the grill, or the perfectly chilled glass of bubbly, but not much. Our family has been using a new recipe of artisan bread that we just love! With a few tweaks you can turn it into more than just a loaf of bread, but let’s start with the basics of this no-knead Dutch oven bread.

I first found this recipe a year ago when stores were limiting shoppers and it was impossible to find some basics like meat, toilet paper and bread. I’ve tried making a few different bread recipes, and I was interested in a bread machine, but I didn’t like the way the crust turned out. I like a good crusty bread. Its so good for texture and for dipping into soups or getting very bit of sauce up from your plate.

This method, created by Jeff Hertzberg, a physician from Minneapolis, entails no kneading and can be prepared by the most novice of bread makers. If you have any inkling to learn to make bread or if you are a pro and desire a simpler method, buy this book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking.

Download the PDF recipe here.

First, the tools:

You’ll need a Dutch oven, some type of container with lid (or press-and-seal wrap works) a large wooden cutting board or other clean work surface, parchment paper, and a little bit of faith.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 ½  Tablespoons (T) granulated yeasts (1½ packets)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon (T) kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6½ cups (29.25 oz.) unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

Instructions:

Mixing and Storing the Dough

  1. Add filtered water to a tea kettle and warm to approximately 100 degrees fahrenheit (just warmer than body temperature).
  2. Add yeast to the warm water inside your mixing container (I used this resealable container, but I have also used a small Lowes bucket with press-and-seal wrap). I add the yeast, then flour, then salt on top of all that.
  1. Mix in the flour. That’s right, mix all of the flour in at once. Use a wooden spoon, or a dough whisk, but you certainly do not need one! A wooden spoon works just as well!
  2. Cover (not airtight) and let rise for two hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Allow to Rise:

Give your Dough time to rise (about two hours, or once it has doubled). You’ll want to make sure your kitchen is warm enough for the yeast, warmer than 68 degrees. After this time you can refrigerate it for use anytime. The longer it sits in the fridge, the tangier it will be. We most often use our within four or five days.

Baking Day:

For a Single Loaf of Dough

  1. Prepare your space; flour a large wooden cutting board or other clean surface.
  2. Prepare your parchment paper for baking by sprinkling cornmeal onto it.
  3. Next sprinkle flour over the top of your dough inside the bucket and take off a piece about the size of a grapefruit.
  4. Tip: Using a serrated knife may help get the dough way neater.

  1. Hold the dough in your hands, adding more flour if needed so it doesn’t sick. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.
  2. Place the shaped dough onto the cornmeal dusted parchment paper. Let rest uncovered for 40 minutes.

Time to Turn on the Oven

  1. 20 minutes before baking, turn on the oven to 450 degrees. Place your Dutch oven into cold oven on the bottom rack and the top of the Dutch oven onto the top rack.
  2. Dust the top of your loaf with flour, then using a sharp filet knife or other very sharp knife, make three slashes into the top of the loaf about ¼-inch deep.
  3. At the end of 20 minutes, carefully place parchment paper and bread into the hot Dutch oven and cover. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the outer crust is firm and has a slight brown color.
  4. Remove bread from the Dutch oven by carefully lifting it out by holding the corners of the parchment paper or holding the bread with a pair of oven mitts.
  5. Allow bread to cool completely, a wire rack works nicely for this.

If you would like a large loaf, consider baking all of the dough to make an impressively large loaf of bread!

We have also used the dough to make small rolls which the children love!

And in a pinch you can even make cinnamon rolls with this dough!

For a crispier crust, you can try using a pizza stone. But be sure to add a cup of water in a broiler pan to get a really nice brown crust. Let me know if you want this additional recipe.

I hope you enjoy baking your own bread at home!

From this Post:

Dutch Oven

Measuring Cups

Dutch dough whisk and dough cutter

Dough bucket

Our Winter Book Haul

One of our favorite winter activities (besides sledding!) is cuddling on the sofa in front of the fire place with a cup of hot tea, freshly popped popcorn and a few of our favorite books!

We finally popped into our local library and picked up some new books. Check out what is in our current reading basket.

You can see there is a theme to our recent haul, bears and groundhogs! Our city has a really fun groundhog event each year downtown filled with fun programs and crafts for the kids to do. We never miss it! My two year old loves bear stories, and our big girl is learning to read books. It is so heartwarming to see them sit together, and so awesome to see big sister reading stories to her younger sibling.

These are just a few of our favorite stories to read in winter, but there are so many more! What is your favorite book to read in winter? I’m starting a book club with a few other of my mom friends that kicks off soon! I’m always looking for recommendations on new books, leave a your favorites below in the comments. Maybe we’ll add them to our reading list!

Our Family Favorite: Dutch Apple Pie

We’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, have you? I’ve tried several new recipes, and lots of family favorites. This apple pie is a huge hit at our house. I hope you’ll enjoy it and make it a family favorite at your house!

apple_pie

A mix of pie and apple crips topping, this is the ultimate apple pie.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 65 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Fuji or Gala apples peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 mandarin orange- juiced
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar; separated
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter , diced
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pre-bake pie crust according to directions.

  2. Remove pie crust from oven once slightly brown.
  3. Reset the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a large bowl add the apple slices, orange juice, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

    Crisp Topping

  5. To make the crisp topping, mash together the 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oats and butter.

  6. Add the apples to the pie dish and add the crisp topping on top before baking for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.

Get the Printable Recipe here: Easy Dutch Apple Pie

Shelf Cooking: Family Friendly Shrimp and Sausage Paella (not spicy)

Things are a little different here these days. May of us are staying home, almost all of us find ourselves cooking at home more often. If you’re like me, after 30 days you’ve made all the “family favorites,” and are looking for new ideas. I’m sharing a new recipe I tried, and look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks!

We made this dish and it was such a huge hit! Paella is usually made with the wonderful (but expensive) spice called saffron. Have you ever tried it? Since we’re practicing shelf cooking (meaning cooking at home with what we have, instead of running to the store with a list of ingredients) I had to improvise a little. Here’s my version of this delectable dish!

img_9552

 

Ingredients

1 lb kielbasa sausage, sliced into ¼inch pieces

2 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (or green bell pepper) 

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with herbs, un-drained

3 cups chicken broth (or hot water and 3 tsp better than bullion seasoning)

2 cups uncooked long-grain rice (or Mexican rice)

1 lb peeled deveined medium shrimp, thawed if frozen, tail shells removed

1 cup frozen sweet peas

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

 

Directions

  1. Fill electric kettle (or 2-quart saucepan) with water (or chicken broth in saucepan) and bring to a boil.
  2. In a large paella pan or 3-inch-deep 12-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned. Remove sausage and add chopped onions lightly salted until softened, add bell peppers stirring occasionally until crisp-tender. Reduce heat to low add garlic and tomatoes and combine.
  3. Sprinkle in rice and pour over heated broth or hot water and add 3 tsp better than bullion chicken concentrate; heat to a boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp and peas. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

 

Click here for a Printer Friendly Version. 

Let me know if you make this recipe! And if you modify it, I’m always looking for new meal ideas at dinner time. Stay safe, stay healthy friends!

xo,

Christine

Spring Porch Refresh

Great sales continue to center on outdoor future! Our front porch could use refresh and I’ve picked out a few of my favorites to share with you. I’m in love with this outdoor pendent light and boxwood wreath!

Porch_Refresh

 

Outdoor pendent light | Outdoor Rug | Outdoor Bench | Love Seat Bench

Boxwood Wreath | Open Weave Basket| Outdoor Lantern |

Outdoor Lumbar Pillow | Mid Century Modern PlanterPlanter |Belly Basket

Monogram Letter | Home Door Mat | Buffalo Check Mat

More outdoor rugs: Neutral with Blue BoarderCream with DiamondTapestry

 

A good rule of thumb for rugs to go opposite of your floor; for example light floors look better with a dark rug.

Target currently has a 15% of sale using code: March.

Happy hunting, I hope you create a great space to enjoy in the upcoming months!

 

You can find more great indoor ideas for inside your home here: https://www.amazon.com/shop/dsm_blog

 

xo,

Christine

Spring Patio Refresh

Welcome rain storms, and lots of beautiful outdoor time. Target is having a great patio sale. And if you have a red card, this should all ship free to your house! We have this table and chair and bench from last year and we love them! They’ve held up so well.

F0205C4A-033C-410F-88AD-02B66F502EBD

This is also a great time of year to plant flowers for the early summer! I’ve linked some of my favorite I’ve added to our garden over the last few years. Here in North Carolina we have the perfect conditions for growing beautiful peonies.

 

Spring_Patio_Refresh2

 

Dinning patio table | Dinning chairs | Bench

Umbrella | Wicker Patio Love Seat | Side TableBasket

Navy Chair Cushions | Stripped Accent Pillow | Woven Rug

HydrangeaPeony | PeonyShirley Temple Peony

Hanging Planter

 

Please comment below your plans for your garden this spring. Are you a container gardener? Do you have flower beds? Or maybe you have a balcony with some succulents? Tell us your favorite way to spend more time outdoors!

 

xo,

Christine

Colorful Autumn Soup 🍂

Here’s a soup the whole family will love. Tested by several of my close friends and family members, this soup has been a hit for all members of the family! Moms, Dads, even picky eaters will love this! And as a bonus, its filled with lots of hearty ingredients and may even help boost milk production for nursing moms!

I first discovered this recipe when I was pregnant with my third baby. I knew I wanted to have some soups on hand when the baby arrived. When my mom came to visit we first made this together. It was such a hit! We made a double batch and froze the ingredients in the freezer to make into a crock pot meal later! (Yes it froze well, and it was so easy to dump everything into the crockpot when I needed a quick meal.) Remember to give yourself grace when you’re in the middle of a huge life change. A home cooked meal out of the crockpot will feed your family too just the same as if you made everything from scratch. Below is my version of this fabulous soup that I hope your family will love too!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tortilla Soup

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tortilla Soup is a vegan version of classic tortilla soup that’s every bit as hearty! {GF, V}

 

SWEET POTATO BLACK BEAN TORTILLA SOUP

Quick Download of the recipe here.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1.5 lbs. sweet potato (about 2 medium), peeled, and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 tsp vegetable broth concentrate
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes with its juice
  • Juice of 1 lime plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, a pinch of salt and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and lightly sauté (be careful not to burn). 
  2. Add in the chopped red bell pepper, can of diced tomatoes, and spices. Stir everything together and then add in the chopped sweet potatoes and cover with  water and stir in the vegetable concentrate (you could use 5 cups of veggie broth instead).
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Add in the black beans and corn. Turn the heat back up to bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Beans should be cooked, but not mushy.
  6. Check flavors and adjust with salt and pepper to taste (we skip the pepper for the little ones.)
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. We serve it with fresh chopped cilantro and lime wedges. You could add tortilla strips, goldfish, bread, jalapenos for spice, yogurt, sour cream or anything you have on hand for dipping to make it your own. Enjoy!

 

Please feel free to share this with a new mom, or better make it and bring it over for her! What’s your go to recipe for new moms, or a meal to take to a friend. Leave it below, I’d love to share what works well for others too!

(The original recipe has been adapted from flavor the moments blog.)

 

xo,

Christine

 

 

Cozy Autumn Home

This posts contains some affiliate links, however all content is my own and not sponsored in anyway.

Delightful Southern Moments

 

chair

I love when the seasons change, don’t you? The cool, crisp whisper of autumn in the evenings and all the cozy sweaters, football games, and campfires! Fall is a great time to update your home too. With a few easy changes you can create a cozy home that’s the perfect gathering space for your family!

reading

candles

twinkle

Creating layers is the perfect way to think about having a cozy home. Think horizontal, vertical and depth. Adding a new piece of art to your wall can create a lot or just a pop of drama. I adore this print by COLLEEN KARIS! It’s the inspiration to the rest of the autumn pieces I’m sharing for updating your home for Fall!

Screen Shot 2019-09-19 at 2.01.54 PMCOLLEEN KARIS Forest Wall Art

peace

Home Sweet Home Doormat | Buffalo Check Doormat | Wheat Grass Wreath

 

 

Fall Mug | Boxwood Wreath | Buffalo Check Pillow Cases

 

 

Welcome Sign | Hello Pumpkin Mug | White Pumpkin with Gold Pumpkins

 

 

Ceramic Pumpkin Cocotte | Twinkle Lights | Wooden Coasters

The last two layers to consider are item which adds an extra layer of cozy. A fluffy throw blanket and pillow are an easy way to update a space for the season. They pull together all the colors in a space because there are so many options!

 

 

Thankful Pillow | Embroidered Pumpkins Pillow | Linen Wheat Grass Pillow

 

 

Chunky Knit Throw Blanket | Plaid Faux Mohair Throw Blanket Hamilton Trail Check Bed Blanket

 

You don’t have to spend a fortune to update your home for cooler months. A few key pieces of layer can make it the perfect gathering space for your family!

Cozy_Fireplace.png

 

You can find more home goods at our amazon store front! Please visit Shop the Blog on Amazon

And if we left out anything you’d add, please comment below. And be sure to check out our other autumn themed posts including Our Autumn Book Haul and Fall Bucket List 🍂🍁

xo,

Christine

 

 

Our Autumn Book Haul

We love reading stories at our house. Reading aloud to children is so important.

“Reading builds brains, fostering early learning and creating connections in the brain that promote language, cognitive, and social and emotional development.

By reading with your child, you also help cultivate a lasting love of reading. Reading for pleasure can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression and dementia.” (University of Liverpool)

Our library is a great place to pick up all our favorite autumn themed books! Check out what is in our current reading basket:

 

Goodbye Summer Hello Autumn | Ten Apples Up On Top! | The Apple Pie Tree

Apples and Pumpkins | Blueberries for Sal | Apple Countdown

Leaves |The Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit | Curious George Apple Harvest

 

These are some of our very favorite stories to read when the weather starts to cool down. What are your favorites? Do you have a story you love to read every autumn?