Giggling While Learning: Holiday Gift Ideas!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! This year my holiday gift guide is filled with family friendly items that will keep all ages entertained and learning for hours and hours. (Remember – never stop learning!) Some of the ideas are new games or books from first time authors, while others are “staples” in the toy bins and play closets of millions of households.

New games that teach and entertain!

Brave the winter elements and play an older game with a newer twist – THE GROUND IS LAVA! This game is great for reinforcing the “art” of turn taking and gross motor skills. Plus, it has the extra benefit of mentally helping people by encouraging them to become ACTIVE.

The publisher summarized this dynamic game as follows:

Many people know the impromptu game of shouting out “LAVA” and everyone jumping up into nearby objects to get their feet off the ground. Endless Games created a format where players continue to imagine the floor is molten hot lava, but added play patterns using a spinner for color call-outs and having players jump along foam game pieces in order to reach safety. Challenge cards that enforce activities that can make it difficult not to fall into the lava come into play when landing on certain tiles.

Taking the game outside adds another format to play. “Tiles can be placed farther apart. Patio furniture and natural objects, like rocks and trees, can provide touch points or obstacles,” Turtle explained. “It’s very interesting to see the ways that kids are using their imaginations and being active with the game play.”

Endless Games also offers these fun games are available on AMAZON. Click the photo or the description below for the Amazon link to learn more.

CAMERA ROLL – a game that aligns with today’s teens and adults who list Instagram as their favorite “hobby”. Seriously, this game is a great gift for the teen in your life. Social skills and great conversations can result with this game.

JEOPARDY CARD GAME (regular and junior editions)- The popular game made famous by the late Alek Trebek. Great as a stocking stuffer and a travel game. Making my list two years in a row.

WHEEL of FORTUNE (regular and junior editions)– Perfect for teaching predictive spelling and word usage. This game is fun and teaches the basics of spelling without your kids even knowing!

HORROR TRIVIA (I and II – for those who love to scream their answers!) I have this on the list – just because…

PASSWORD- This is an older game revised. The concept of guessing words within a certain time limit based on verbal clues continues to bring a whole lot of the fun factor. If you to like to compete – this game is for you! Another language based game that helps kids to describe – great for growing vocabulary knowledge and literacy.

DROPSY OOPS I did it again may be the theme of this game? Seriously, this is a funny game where balance is everything! Adults will like it, too.

New from Board Game GeekFREQUENT FLYER!

A game for families who love to travel! Covid has limited our ability to travel, but, not our wanderlust! So, here is a way to satiate your cravings for exploring new places from the comfort of your home. (Better yet, learn about each place, make a list, and go travel there in 2022!)


A book is a gift that can help a child learn about the world beyond their homes, ignite a sense of exploration, or teach skills – such as how to cope during tough times. The children’s books by Familius Publishing are some of my favorites! This year they have a very solid collection of Christmas-themed books. Check out these very creative and beautifully illustrated selections. – OMG this book is so cute! What made me a big fan was not only this modern version of a classic Christmas story but the gorgeous illustrations that POP from the book’s pages! A perfect book for both boys and girls who are imaginative and love to read and be listen to stories. (Suggested age range: 3 and up)

The Christmas Train is the perfect gift for a toddler or preschooler. The story AND the book both unfold in front of your eyes! Bright and cheery illustrations with a holiday-themed short story. (Don’t tell the neighbors – but I bought their little ones this book and a similar themed book as a set.)

LITTLE ELVES VISIT CALIFORNIA! How many holiday books teach geography and state facts? This one does (and Familius offers other states such as Missouri and Colorado! (Age range: Preschool and up)


Family Favorites also include these games (with a little info about which skills they develop that may help your child’s development/academics).

TRIVIA PURSUIT for KIDS (or adult version)
Turn-taking/ Learning colors, basic counting, basic reading skills, and Trivia Pursuit expands beyond the basic fundamentals of learning.
Verbal Comprehension/ Verbal Reasoning Skills / Numerical Reasoning/ Prediction Skills/ MEMORY

SCATTERGORIESClassification and categorization of items/ words

Just in case you were wondering what I did with all these review copies I receive…

Games and books reviewed here were received from the publisher. I have donated them to charity so that disadvantaged youth can enjoy their holiday season.
Whatever you celebrate may this holiday season be filled with positivity and hope for a better 2022.

A Random List of Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

So, you waited until the last minute to shop for the holidays? Don’t worry- I have ideas for the last minute shopper who is looking for a unique gifts

Think Positive! DIY!

Short on time and cash? Here are some gifts that are from the heart and shouldn’t break your wallet.

  1. Make a photo book chronicling the positive aspects of 2020. Send your photos to a one -day/ hour service (such as Walgreens or CVS) and then place the prints in to an inexpensive photo album or create one yourself from materials you can find at home. For bonus fun – write a poem to add to your gift.
  2. Go festive and make your own piñata! Be sure to fill with favorites – like candy and dollar store toys! Here is an easy “recipe” from Berries. com
  3. Sew from scraps of cloth and fill with beans – your very own bean bags. Use to play games or teach another person how to juggle!
  4. Bake cookies, decorate and place in creative containers.

Not in the creative mood – well then give the gift of TRAVEL!

Eventually, we will be able to satiate our wanderlust! Travel will be back on the calendar and you can make your family and friends smile with travel themed gifts. ( I already talked with my travel agent guru from The Travel Store, Linda Kahn- Ferrell for our next adventure!)

Consider ITALY!! We are! I can’t wait to reunite with the awesome Ana from Selected Tours Italy! I met Ana more than a year ago at the LA Travel and Adventure Show. We stayed in touch and she smartly has pivoted her business to helping travelers who are “stuck at home” enjoy the spirit of travel – virtually! Check out their awesome virtual tours for holiday gifting here. And, surprise your loved one by booking as a gift a customized tour of Italy for a post-Covid future trip!


Not ready to fly across the ocean? Well here is another travel themed idea. How fun to give the gift of a trip to a National Park! Rent an easy to drive RV and surprise your family with a trip to go visit Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or even Niagra Falls! These parks have been open (more or less) throughout the pandemic and help press our inner “reset” button.

Cruise America is known for great RV rentals. And, to learn about US National Parks go here:

Read about my spin on RV’ing

Last but certainly not least – Give the Gift of Paying It Forward!

Let’s face it – you get to a certain age when you have collected more than enough “STUFF”. You don’t need anymore “stuff” because you have no room in drawers, closets or shelves.

That is when you give to others.

Consider giving to your local shelter, domestic violence center or a GoFundMe that helps individuals and families in need across the globe. Donate in honor of others. As I am sure, others you know also don’t need more stuff!


Animals need love, too! While there has been a surge of animal adoptions since the Covid 19 pandemic- there continues to be a huge need for help at our local shelters and organizations that care for animals in fragile situations. This is where you can help by sponsoring an animal, donating or adoption.

Try to find your local organizations in need and pets looking for homes. And remember, before you shop – look to adopt! There are many “pure breed” animals looking for their fur-ever families.

This past holiday season I sponsored five dogs in shelters. Each dog was sponsored in the name of a family member or friend. The sponsor fee helped pay for food and care for the dogs. I heard a lot of “aws” and “how cute” when the envelopes with photos of these pups were opened. I opted to sponsor via and they sent a lovely thank you.

Just look at these faces (and by the way – they all have been adopted since we started to sponsor them – except for Minnetonka (with the red collar on the left). How sweet is this little pup! Learn more here

And, as the calendar turns to 2021 – know that I have appreciated each of those who have read this blog. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Gift Ideas: Part 2 – Support an Artist

Life during COVID 19 is hard. It is more than a minor challenge for parents, now turned teachers. It is a crisis for restaurant, hospitality and beauty shop owners and their employees. And, for those who are creative talents – such as performing and visual artists – COVID 19 has made their livelihoods null and void. The result – many artists have opted to pivot.

So, my mission for this blog is to introduce you to some artists who use their creativity to make our homes and offices beautiful and are worth checking out this holiday season. Plus, I added two textile creators that recently caught my eye (and credit card).

This is the second of my holiday gift recommendations and I hope you enjoy it! Read the first one here.

I was invited to meet Steffi Pecarich when her family members asked Hubby and I to attend her 2019 art opening. I love art and always want to support my friends projects of their kids, but I was not prepared on how much I would enjoy the artistic talent of this young lady! Steffi is featured on ETSY and very much an artist you should take time to learn more about and support by simply pressing > “click here to meet Steffi” .

My take… Her art seems simplistic until you really look closely. And please do. How this talent melds her colors together and embeds symbols in each of her paintings is quite intriguing. I think this one might be my favorite (click).

Plus, ArtFactory69 (Steffi’s company’s name) is priced for the average person’s budget with many pieces under $40. Here is an interview of Steffi from a YouTube’s show: On The Trend with Elliott Desai

Follow Steffi on ETSY and INSTAGRAM

My repertoire of artistic talent can be summed up with a few puffy paint shirts and stick figure drawings. Not so with my niece, Elissa Masin Blumstein. She always was a master with the art brush. Now, with her husband, Ryan Blumstein, they have expanded from their successful special event signage and decor company – SURFACE GROOVES with the fun and functional – SURFACE GOODS. This new venture came at the right time! Their customer base is the consumer who now find themselves staying at home in lieu of spending their annual vacation bucks. SURFACE GOODS brings to home and hearth beautiful and customizable decor. So much to love (and, that truly is my “unbiased” opinion!). PLUS… they have created CHANUKAH decorations that aren’t your store bought cookie cutter offerings. I am sooo tired of the same old Chanukah decorations that are usually ugly and BORING (or expensive). I was thrilled to see their variety of signage including one that has a very clever play on words – HAPPY CHALLAH DAY! (See below)





Holiday Gift Recommendations: Games so fun your kids won’t know they are learning! #Giveaway

Each year I write a post with my list of ideas for holiday gifting. I try to skew to gifts that give back to charity or are educational. I also like to list gifts that are provide “random fun”. This year I am writing three blogs – three lists full of holiday gift ideas. The first one is dedicated to educational toys and games. AND… there is a GIVEAWAY. Simply comment below to be entered to win the Griddly Games 5 STONES game by midnight Pacific Time December 13, 2020. See rules below.

Two things you need to know…

First, if I recommend a product or charity I do so without any payment from the company or organization. A few companies sent samples and they will be donated to families who are struggling due to Covid 19 or teachers.

Secondly, I welcome your suggestions. Simply add your holiday gift ideas in the comment section below.

From Griddly Games comes a very unique ensemble of ” just add…” products and others that use word and numerical reasoning. I must admit, as an educator, they had me at their descriptions of being products focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). All of these kits are user friendly (younger children will require supervision, as can be expected).


just add EGG.(ages 5 and up, parent/ teach guidance required) – Comprised of more than 10 interactive activities with “egg-speriments” included in this very fun egg shaped box. This game is filled with everything from molding clay, crayons, glue and even corn syrup! Lots of hours of fun are to be expected and all need is a child, their imagination, a parent or teacher to supervise and EGGS!

Like science AND art? Then check out just add BAKING SODA! You can make at least 20 different projects – including your very own bath bombs, volcano or holiday ornaments with this very visually fun and interactive kit! I like that this kit uses a lot of visual motor perceptual skills and helps to build fine motor skills.

Be sure to check out ALL the just ask kits here. Great prices! Find also on Amazon!



Children’s Products) If you enjoy trivia games – then you will LOVE Wise Alec(TM). Meant for family night or classroom game time – WISE ALEC incorporates mind games such as brain teasers and tongue twisters with physical activity. Over 1000 questions are included in the game box. The game is geared reinforce elementary school curricula covering the subjects of History, Science and Spelling!

Need easy questions for your first grader – no problem. Want to challenge your fifth grader? With Wise Alec you can do that, too! And when you pick a STUDY BREAK card get ready to MOVE (and earn points for doing so!) Excellent game and great for those who need support with literacy skills, too! Supper fun and creative. I give Wise Alec a solid A++


When I first saw this game in the box I started hooting and hollering! A WORD game!! Plus it was very reminiscent of Scrabble® and Boggle®. SHOW ME THE KWAN also had many components of categorizing games such as Scattergories®. This game is Intended to be played with a large group (you can have up to ten players). I envision this game as great for classroom use, “Covid 19” education pod groups (home education) and parties with tweens and teens.

“KWAN” takes a bit of a learning curve to get the rules down – but once you do – watch out! This is a fast paced game for letter/wordsmiths! Small enough to bring along to family and friend gatherings.


There are several reasons for parents to buy puzzles this holiday season. How many gifts can teach history, art, geography and much more for a fraction of the price of an electronic gaming system? Plus, kids can learn foundational literacy skills.

First, when you assemble a puzzle you need organizational and visual discrimination skills. Some people like to separate pieces by color, or by shape. Others are very focused on the cover picture and organize their puzzle pieces section by section (frame vs. inside, for example).

Did you know that when you assemble a puzzle you also are training your eyes to see how “parts become a whole”? Puzzles, believe it or not, can help teach children how letters become words and words become a paragraph?!


Endless Games is a company that you can access online or by driving to your nearest Kohl’s. If you are a lover of puzzles AND Broadway you will FREAK at their PLAYBILL Presents puzzle! Hours of fun for under $15!



This is a beautiful 1000 piece puzzle spotlighting the artistic talent of Malcom Watson. Your whole family can linger over the dining room table as you complete this puzzle that measures almost 20″ by 26″ when finished.

Master Pieces – beautiful quality puzzles.

I received this CATOLOGY puzzle. While not a huge fan of cats (more of a dog lover) – this puzzle was simply lovely and the poster inside was a nice bonus feature!

More Favorite Puzzles with Educational Value

White Mountain Puzzles. Their Nostalgic / Vintage Collection are my favorites. These puzzles are great for multi-generational play. Grandparents and parents can educate children and young adults about life before the new Millennium! The pieces are thick and that is good for young and old fingers, alike. White Mountain Puzzles are POPULAR – so be sure to check back if ones on your wish list are out of stock. Website and Amazon.

Uncommon Goods offers novelty puzzles with political and historical themes. This VOTES FOR WOMEN is a circular pattern.


GIVEAWAY- the Griddly Games new edition: 5 STONES! Open to all United States residents who are 18 years of age or older. Must comment on this post on or before Sunday, December 13, 2020, 11:59pm Pacific time. No employees or family member associated with Griddly Games nor may enter. One winner. Will be announced here on the blog AND via email. No substitutions.

Coming up in the next blog: Giving with a Purpose!

My 2019 Holiday Gift List for Grown-Ups

Every year I try to write a short list of recommended gift ideas for the holiday season. This year, I am including an eclectic list of suggestions – some that you will find on my Amazon list of holiday ideas and others that are “non- traditional”. I hope they pique your interest! Enjoy!



I wrote this past week about tablift®. Reminder: I am offering a GIVEAWAY CONTEST associated with this product until Dec. 2, 2019. . Simply go here to learn more about this accessory for your tablets and how to enter the giveaway. A super gift idea for most ages.

Kindle Fire

This is the PERFECT gift for any one who loves to read, take photos, play electronic games (like Solitaire, Scrabble, etc.) and watch prime videos! I use this every single time I fly! Price point is a smooth $29.99 on Amazon as a limited special here.


I love our BLINK and if you are into home devices that are “smart” and convenient check out the BLINK XT2 and ECHO DOT combo pack. On sale CYBER MONDAY on AMAZON. Also, available as individual purchases.

Non-Traditional Gift Ideas

Here is my list of non-traditional gift ideas for this year. If you have any others to add – please do so in the comment section below.

1- and Two ways to help out teachers in need because educators never seem to have enough resources to help teach our children.

2. Adopt a Senior – An organization to help senior centers or individuals who do not have much family support. If this organization does not resonate with you, please consider donating to your local senior facility. One way is to help is to provide games for their group activities. Balls, giant BINGO games, decks of cards with large print and activity boards are all used in facilities that help our seniors, especially those with cognitive / memory issues. Here are some ideas if you wish to explore.

3. Donate to the arts. Every year there are local theaters, dance companies, museums, and more that are seeking funds in order to provide quality entertainment and activities for our communities. They need our help. Please consider donating locally or globally to keep the arts alive.

4. SHOP LOCAL. Buy goods or gift certificates to local restaurants, book stores, even service shops like cleaners, nail salons, grocery stores and hair stylists! Support our communities as well as your “friends” online.

5. NO child should have a day where they feel hunger. Please support this organization (and if you give on #GivingTuesday contributions will be matched!)

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!

TABLIFT- Great holiday gift idea (Plus, a #Giveaway)

You will LOVE tablift® by nbryte. You will love to give it as a gift. You will love to ask Santa for one for yourself. You will love the functionality. You will LOVE the price! AND… YOU WILL LOVE THAT I AM OFFERING A GIVEAWAY!

What is tablift®? Here is where photos can be worth a zillion words to describe this handsfree device that helps you to view with ease content on a tablet or cell phone.

tablift has strong but lightweight construction making it perfect for travel or when lounging.