Top 5 Educational Toys for 2017

If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are pura caca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.

Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.

Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season

SmartMax Start XL 

If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!

Amazon Fire 7 for Kids

Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!

Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels

Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence. 

This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.

Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!

Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set

I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!

Super Nintendo Classic Edition 

Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills. 

Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.

I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping. 

Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.

My fellow Americans, freeze your credit report now to protect yourself from fraud!

Why? Because there is roughly a 50% chance that Equifax has lost your confidential information to the black market. What information exactly? Your social security number, your birthdate, your addresses, your name… basically everything that can be used to open credit cards, purchase a house in your name, or collect your tax returns while claiming your children as their dependents!

freeze your credit report
A graphic-rendering of someone stealing your data

First, I’m going to give you my experience in freezing my credit report today while I show you how you can easily do it yourself, as well.

Then, I’ll answer a few simple questions you may have that are burning inside your mind.

Don’t forget to check your annual credit report for free here.

How to Freeze Your Credit Report

There are three credit companies you will need to contact in order to freeze your account: Experian, TransUnion, and, the data breach culprits themselves, Equifax.

I tried doing it online through their websites and was unsuccessful on each attempt. So I moved to a method that I found was much easier to freeze your credit report: through the phone!

Before I give you the numbers you’ll have to call, make sure you have the following:

  • your social security number
  • your address (also your previous addresses if you have lived in your current residence for less than two years)
  • your birthdate
  • a credit card
  • pen and paper to record your Pin and Confirmation numbers

If you have those things, you won’t be scrambling during the phone call to retrieve them.

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960

  • Time to complete: 5 minutes
  • Cost: $0 Why? Because they know they dropped the ball and they’re trying to save face.
  • Pin and Confirmation delivered over the phone

This was the easiest of the three to complete. A simple robot asks for your information, you provide it, boom! Your credit report is frozen and you can sleep well again!

TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
    • I had to be transferred to an operator and I waited on the line for most of this time, once I was connected, the process took just a few minutes.
  • Cost: $10 (I’m from Michigan, each state is different, but Michigan is in the most expensive bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Again, easy to complete, as long as you don’t mind waiting on the phone for an operator.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

  • Time to complete: 6 minutes
  • Cost: $10 (Again, the Michigan rate for this company, and again, the highest cost bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Though the phone call only took 6 minutes. I had to make this call twice to get through. For whatever reason, the robot system just didn’t recognize or understand what I was trying to do the first time. The second effort was a breeze, however.

So now, a few answers to some simple questions you probably have.

freeze your credit report
“I’ll take that!” Says the data thief.

Common Questions About What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit Report

Here are a few quick answers to questions about what happens when you freeze your credit report.

Does it impact my credit score?

No, not at all.

Can I still rent an apartment, buy insurance, or open a new account?

You can, but you’ll have to temporarily lift the freeze on your report. Simply contact the companies again to do this. If you’re wise, you’ll ask your new bank, insurance agency, or landlord which company they will contact to check your credit report and you can just do your temporarily lift for that company to save you time and a little bit of cash.

Does a freeze impact my current accounts?

No. However, if your current information is stolen, like, say a credit card number, a thief can still damage you in that way. The credit freeze just prevents any new, unauthorized accounts from opening in your name.

Why can’t I just use a fraud protection agency like LifeLock?

You can, but understand that the company you are using is likely just funneling your money back to Equifax, the same company that lost your information in the first place.

Likewise, the fraud protection companies can’t prevent everything. Remember the buffoon for LifeLock who braggingly plastered his Social Security number on the side of a truck and broadcasted it in television ads to show how solid LifeLock was? His identity was stolen 13 times as a result. Real nice.

How long should I keep the freeze in place?

Until you die. I’m not fear-mongering when I say this: your data may never be safe again. Thanks a lot, overly-confident, under-prepared, super-incompetent credit monitoring companies.

freeze your credit report
Me, protecting my data.

Do you have any other questions about the Equifax breach, how to freeze your credit report, or how it impacts you? I’m happy to help so leave a comment with your concern 🙂

 

 

 

 

By: Julie Morris 

If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.

It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it. 

single parent travel
Get out and enjoy yourself!

The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.

Single Parent Travel, Plan Well

Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?

single parent travel
Get lost if you have to, but stay safe

If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.

Work out a budget

Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.

Focus on yourself

When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.

single parent travel
Find yourself by putting yourself in perspective

This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.

For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.

Improving Yourself Improves Your Family

Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.

 

 

 

No One is Required To Share

So my daughter brought her dinosaurs to the park, and you didn’t. You want to play with her dinosaurs, and she says no, tough luck, kid. She’s not obligated to give you a dinosaur and if you run to me to tattle on her I’m gonna say, ‘so? Get your own dinosaurs.’

Forcing your child to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, including sharing with a stranger who rudely interrupts her play session thinking they have a right to her toys, is not going to help your child develop into a well-rounded adult. Likely, your child will grow into a pushover, someone who gets used and abused by the adults who were once kids tattling on other children who wouldn’t share with them.

She loves being forced to share her hand

 

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but teaching my daughter to not melt like a snowflake is not one of them.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

Do You Share As An Adult?

No, you don’t. If you’re at the park, ‘watching’ your kids by falling face first into your phone, I doubt very much you’re going to let me watch a few YouTube videos, no matter how politely I ask. That’s because you’re setting boundaries for yourself, and that’s okay. You don’t even have to ask for forgiveness, because non-snowflake adults will understand just fine, and the snowflakes will melt no matter what.

So when my daughter says ‘no’ to your little snowflake about her dinosaurs, teach your kid to suck it up and find something else to do instead of coddling them and suggesting to them that my daughter is the rude one.

Sharing too much can drive us crazy

Boundaries Are Healthy

Teaching my child that it’s okay to set boundaries, and that it’s equally okay to be refused something because someone else set a boundary, is part of learning to be a good person. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she has to be a super kid, to do everything that someone asks of her (like I did), or else think of herself as rude, or an incomplete person. Why? Because doing so lead me to saying yes to peer pressure throughout my young life, doing things I didn’t want to do when I was emotionally or physically exhausted, or losing time for myself because I didn’t want to appear to be rude.

Setting boundaries for yourself is what will keep you sane and healthy, and helps you avoid overexerting yourself. And if there’s one thing you should be doing, Kamal Ravikant described it well, love yourself first.

Share When You Can, Not When You’re Asked To

If you have an abundance, you should share it. If you don’t think you have an abundance to share, you’re likely lying to yourself. Unless you are on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society, then you have an abundance in someone’s eyes. And if you’re reading this post, then you’re not on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society. You have access to the internet with hands to type, you have food in your belly with fingers to pick meat from bone, you have fresh water to drink with lips to hold it in your mouth, you likely have a roof to sleep under and eyelids to close. Believe me, these are excesses that not everyone has. Let me share a story with you.

The Woman On The Street Of Hong Kong, After I Fattened Myself Up

I don’t even much like fastfood because I know how it destroys my gut’s biome, adds an inordinate amount of fat, sodium, and calories to my diet, and makes my love handles wiggle like Kim’s or Kylie’s ass. I don’t really know who they are, I just know they are over-indulgent celebrities who are known for not much more than their asses, so I’m taking an unnecessary cheap shot there to make a stupid point.

That point is that I indulge in excess without even wanting to. So when I was walking home down some streets I had never taken before in Mongkok, I heard a soft and lovely voice singing in Chinese, amplified by a small speaker. This isn’t uncommon for Mongkok, there’s plenty of street performers, hawkers, and political activists making noise in this area. But this one was different.

Beauty is where you choose to find it

As the crowd parted near the corner, choosing one road or the other to cross, I saw a woman sitting on an unfolded cardboard box, clutching a microphone between her forearm and bicep, because she had no hands. Boils were rolling over her stump of a wrist. Her ear was bulging, her eyes bloodshot and twisted. Her nose and lips weren’t even shadows on her face, they just weren’t there. Now, I can’t read Chinese well enough to understand what her story was, but if I had to guess, she had been a victim of an acid attack (obviously I can’t be sure of this, but that’s what it looked like to me).

For me, it’s automatic to avoid beggars, not because I don’t feel compassion for them, but because I generally feel that if I’m going to donate my money and time, it is going to a cause that I believe in, or a program I trust. So I walked past her and crossed the street. I could still hear her singing into her microphone, occasionally saying ‘xie xie’ (thank you in Mandarin) to people who dropped money into the box in front of her. As I made it half-way down the next block I began to realize what I had just done.

They shared balloons, and their worlds were amazing

I had just obscenely filled my belly with disgusting, tortured, chicken meat, washed it down it a bubbly cup of fat juice known as 7-up, then absent-mindedly walked past a person who has obviously had a terrible life, without a second look. I was devastated with myself. So I stopped, walked back across the street, dropped a $50 HKD bill into her box and told her what I should have been feeling from the moment I saw her, ‘Wo ai ni.’ (I love you, in Mandarin).

She didn’t pay me any extra attention than anyone else who gave her money, but she held my gaze for a moment as I told I her I loved her, and uttered in her best, broken English, ‘thank you.’ I doubt very much that it had as much of an impact on her that it had on me, but I hope she goes home tonight believing it and feeling it and knowing that her looks aren’t what make her loved or unloved. Nor is it her soft, lovely singing voice. It’s that she is a person and we should all love each other.

The only language her Chinese Grandma and my daughter currently share, is love

I walked away, tears filling up my eyes, crushed, as I thought about whatever had happened to her in her life, knowing I’m probably wrong, but accepting the fact that I’m a privileged, entitled American, with a ridiculous excess in my life. When I can, I share, but not because someone told me to, or asked me to. I shared with her because I love her, because she made me connect with my own heart and take responsibility for myself. She gave me insight into the person I am, just by being there, being strong, and being human.

Do What’s Right For you

Don’t share because you have to with everyone you see, don’t force your kids to share with snowflake kids at the park, and don’t expect anyone to have to share either their time or their money with you. Just be human, love everyone you can, and then you’ll see sharing and receiving becomes a part of your life, like breathing in and breathing out. That’s what being an adult is, that’s what it means to a raise a well-rounded child into a peaceful and loving global citizen, cognizant of the world around them. So quit melting snowflakes, and little snowflakes, realize your life is already amazing, carry on, and share what you can, when you can, and don’t melt when someone sets a boundary for themselves they don’t want you to cross.