Hobby and Toy Central Grand Opening!

hobbyandtoy

London’s latest and greatest toy store, Hobby and Toy Central, is having their Grand Opening celebration tomorrow, Saturday, May 30! This will be the fourth store in Ontario for Hobby and Toy Central, as well as their online store. They bring to London a focus on selection, quality, and service to help every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, and child find the perfect toy! Are you intrigued? Come see for yourself what makes them special.

GRAND OPENING

LOCATION

705 Wonderland Road north, beside Costco

TIME

The store is open from 9:30am to 6:00pm. The festivities begin at 10:00am and go all day.

FUN STUFF

There will be live entertainment with Drew Ripley, a Rubik’s Cube Demo with Eric Limeback, marshmallow shooters, RC Helicopters, slot cars, and board game demo’s throughout the day. For specific times, see HERE.

Temporary tattoos, popsicles, kids playstations, and more than 100 items will be given away from Playmobil, Breyer, Plasma Car, and Carrera.

A fantastic raffle with more than $1200 in hobbies and toys to be won!

 

End of Year Gifts

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‘Tis the season, Mama’s! School is ending soon and often that means the end of other year-long programs as well. So, whether you have only a childcare provider or your list includes a teacher, ECE, EA, LST, bus driver, piano teacher, dance teacher, before/after school daycare provider(s), and more, we have some ideas for ways to thank them for all of their hard work. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to just call them ‘teacher’, but substitute that for whomever you want to thank.

NOTHING

Remember that a gift is not expected. Not all children give their teachers gifts, no matter what Pinterest tells you. If this is going to cause you stress, step back and relax. Your child isn’t going to fail the grade if you don’t send a gift to school on the last day. It’s appreciated, for sure, but not required.

A CARD

Teachers unanimously say that a personalized card is always a treasured gift. Have your child make the card if they enjoy that sort of thing. Spend a few minutes to write a few lines about how much you appreciate the teacher and the work they do with your child and you are all set.

A DONATION IN LIEU OF A GIFT

As an alternative to giving them something tangible, you can chosen to give a donation somewhere in their name. For some ideas, see our Gift Guide on donations from Christmas. This is also a great option for group gifts – daycare, preschool or kindergarten classrooms with multiple teachers/ECE’s, school staff that you want to recognize (that secretarial team that makes the school amazing, for example). Note that at this late date, many places may not be able to mail you a card before school is out, so opt for a print out or email version.

BOOKS

Many teachers stock their classroom with their own books. Donate a book or two to your child’s classroom or teacher’s book shelf. Have your child pick their favourite story from home or something new by their favourite author.

GIFT CARDS

A common default is going to be the Tim’s card, but find out if they prefer Starbuck’s instead or if they are that rare breed that doesn’t like coffee or tea at all. Show your child a cup from either place and ask them if they’ve seen it in their teacher’s hand. Chances are they can identify which their teacher prefers. Indigo cards are also a great idea for restocking/updating the classrooms book shelves or letting them pick a holiday read. LCBO is also a popular choice, though you might want to make sure that this will be a welcome gift. A favourite lunch place, somewhere they can buy school supplies or any other place you’ve heard them mention are some other ideas.

GROUP GIFTS

You’ll have to act now, but all it takes is one parent slipping a letter into each child’s backpack. Invite interested parents to send $5 or $10 per teacher to school in an envelope addressed to your child. Collect the cash, buy a larger gift, sign the card from all the kids whose parents donated money. I guarantee a lot of the parents who receive that letter will happily let you do the shopping on their behalf. Get a gift card for a spa, a nice restaurant or anywhere else where your teacher might want to spend a bit more money over the summer holidays.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Does your child constantly run out of pencil crayons and glue? Odds are good that his/her teacher does as well. Stock them up with markers, erasers, pencils, glue sticks, and whatever else they might need for next year. For bonus points – buy them a pack of personalized labels (just check the shipping dates to make sure they’ll get here on time!). Make sure they aren’t retiring next year though! ;)   Just to reiterate – gifts are appreciated, but not mandatory. Really. And while teachers will be appreciative of whatever you do give them, first ask yourself whether they would want 20 of whatever you plan on giving them. Twenty notes of appreciation? Yes. Twenty beach-scented candles? A bit overpowering. Twenty bedazzled photo frames? Eek.

GIFT GUIDE: Picture Books

books

If you are one of the families that subscribe to the gift guide of “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” then this is for you! And even if you’re not, but you are scrambling to get a last minute gift for a child on your list, may I suggest books? While Robert Munsch, Dr. Seuss, and Sandra Boynton are always going to be around, sometimes it’s nice to try something new. We are a big family of readers and wannabe readers here and these are our picks for best picture books on our shelves. These books are also available at the London Public Library in case you are done your shopping and just want something new to read!

Elephant and Piggie Series, Mo Willems

If you haven’t yet stumbled upon the genius of Mo Willems, you absolutely must start. Elephant and Piggie are the new age of beginner readers. They are smart, funny, and readable for all ages. They are written comic-book-style and will have all kids laughing, and you, too! The latest one, Waiting is Hard, was just released in November.

The Pigeon Series, Mo Willems

Like I said, we are big fans of Mo Willems in this house. The Pigeon series begins with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and ends with The Pigeon Needs a Bath, new this year. My favourite is Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late which has the pigeon echoing many of my own kids bedtime antics. There are board book versions for younger children as well.

No, David! David Shannon

David is another character in a series of books, from board books up to picture books. We love David’s wild antics and naughty behaviour and also how he always figures things out in the end. Lately, we’ve been reading It’s Christmas, David! over and over, but the original will always be my favourite.

The Book with No Pictures, B.J. Novak

This book has gotten a lot of attention this year and for good reason. My children laughed so hard they became silent laughers and all had hiccups by the end. Break out the silly voices and embrace the directions in the book. Be prepared to read it over and over. And over and over and over. For a book with no pictures, this one is captivating and entertaining.

Oliver Jeffers

To choose one book by Oliver Jeffers would be like choosing my favourite crayon. His picture books are thought provoking and entertaining. My sons favourite is Stuck and my unique little daughter loves The Hueys: The New Jumper. His artwork is memorable and bright.

Peter H. Reynolds

Like Oliver Jeffers, Peter H. Reynolds pairs intriguing stories with simple, yet beautiful artwork. He taps into the heart of a child with autism in I’m Here and The Dot provokes creativity in the most stubbornly uncreative child. His artwork can also be found in the mother-daughter book Someday (which will bring on all the feels, you’ve been warned).

Maple, Lori Nichols

A young girl embracing changing seasons and a changing family. As a mother of two girls, this one was an instant fave for me and my daughters.

Sparky!, Jennifer Offill

Oh, Sparky. I’m not even sure what it is about this book that is so magical – whether it’s the laziest pet in the whole world or the optimism of the charming little girl who just wants a friend. Either way, my children all want a sloth for a pet and I kind of wish we had a tree to let him sleep in.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen

I wish there had been a camera on our faces the first time we read this book. The ending is… not something you usually find in a kids book. Do not skip ahead or spoil it, just read it with your kids and watch their faces as you all are enlightened. My kids were shocked and I burst out laughing in disbelief. His follow up book, This is Not My Hat, is equally delightful. If dark humour is your thing, get these books. Jon Klassen also illustrated another award winning favourite, Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett.

 

Gift Guide: Teacher Gifts

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I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you have children who are school-age, then the clock is ticking for you to get those Teacher Gifts bought and wrapped. For many of us, there are more than just teachers on that shopping list – ECE’s, EA’s, therapists, bus drivers, etc. Some of you will have standard go-to gifts that you give year after year, some of you will be new to this type of thing, and the rest may be somewhere in the middle. Instead of giving the teacher a box of chocolates or yet another Christmas mug/ornament that has either an apple or a #1 teacher scrawled on it (there’s a reason there are so many of these in thrift shops), we offer these suggestions:

NOTHING

Remember that a gift is not expected. Not all children give their teachers gifts, no matter what Pinterest tells you. If this is going to cause you stress, step back and relax. Your child isn’t going to get a lump of coal from the teacher if you don’t send a gift to school. It’s appreciated, for sure, but not required.

A CARD

Teachers unanimously say that a personalized card is always a treasured gift. Have your child make the card if they enjoy that sort of thing. Spend a few minutes to write a few lines about how much you appreciate the teacher and the work they do with your child and you are all set.

A DONATION IN LIEU OF A GIFT

My one child has seen a number of therapists over the years and while we love to recognize their amazing work and how much we appreciate them over the holiday season, they aren’t allowed to accept gifts. As an alternative to giving them something tangible, we have always chosen to give a donation somewhere in their name. For some ideas, see our Gift Guide on donations. This is also a great option for group gifts – daycare, preschool or kindergarten classrooms with multiple teachers/ECE’s, school staff that you want to recognize (that secretarial team that makes the school amazing, for example). Note that at this late date, many places will not be able to mail you a card before school is out, so opt for a print out or email version.

BOOKS

Many teachers stock their classroom with their own books. Donate a book or two to your child’s classroom or teacher’s book shelf. Have your child pick their favourite story from home or something new by their favourite author.

GIFT CARDS

A common default is going to be the Tim’s card, but find out if they prefer Starbuck’s instead or if they are that rare breed that doesn’t like coffee or tea at all. Show your child a cup from either place and ask them if they’ve seen it in their teacher’s hand. Chances are they can identify which their teacher prefers. Indigo cards are also a great idea for restocking/updating the classrooms book shelves or letting them pick a holiday read. LCBO is also a popular choice, though you might want to make sure that this will be a welcome gift. A favourite lunch place, somewhere they can buy school supplies or any other place you’ve heard them mention are some other ideas.

GROUP GIFTS

You’ll have to act now, but all it takes is one parent slipping a letter into each child’s backpack. Invite interested parents to send $5 or $10 per teacher to school in an envelope addressed to your child. Collect the cash, buy a larger gift, sign the card from all the kids whose parents donated money. I guarantee a lot of the parents who receive that letter will happily let you do the shopping on their behalf. Get a gift card for a spa, a nice restaurant or anywhere else where your teacher might want to spend a bit more money over the holidays.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Does your child constantly run out of pencil crayons and glue? Odds are good that his/her teacher does as well. Stock them up with markers, erasers, pencils, glue sticks, and whatever else they might need. For bonus points – buy them a pack of personalized labels (just check the shipping dates to make sure they’ll get here on time!).

 

Just to reiterate – gifts are appreciated, but not mandatory. Really. And while teachers will be appreciative of whatever you do give them, first ask yourself whether they would want 20 of whatever you plan on giving them. Twenty notes of appreciation? Yes. Twenty Christmas-scented candles? A bit overpowering. Twenty bedazzled photo frames? Eek.

 

 

Gift Guide: Passes

gift guide3

We have one more non-toy Gift Guide for you Mamas tired of contending with the pile of post-holiday ‘stuff’. This one is for Passes. Passes and memberships can be a great option for kids who love to do sports or go to fun recreational places that cost money. Kids don’t always understand that taking them to these fun places costs you money – sometimes LOTS of money. Not only are buying passes usually the economical way to go, they also allow you to say ‘Yes!’ more often. Here are some great places to buy passes for:

Swimming

Not just for the summer! London has a number of indoor pools to splash around in, including the newly renovated Canada Games Aquatic Centre, South London Community Pool, and Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre, and the three YMCA’s. Multi-swim passes make each visit cheaper than the regular drop-in rate.

Skating

Get a skating pass for the indoor arenas and get on the ice with your kids! You’re in Canada, if you haven’t built your backyard rink yet, then this is pretty much not optional ;)

Skiing/Snowboarding

Boler Mountain is the closest place to get on the slopes, but if you’re willing to travel, you can make day trips out further.

Movies

There are two options here, you can either get the pass (ahem, from Costco) that includes the child’s admission and snack or you could go the very economical way and get a $10 gift card which would give them 4 of the Family Favourite movies on Saturday’s at Silver City… or use on regular movie admission if you want to see newer movies, but don’t want the popcorn and candy.

Children’s Museum

Do you know they have a Grandparent Membership at the Children’s Museum? Two grandparents and unlimited grandchildren can drop in at the museum anytime. No grandparents in town? Not a problem, there are also memberships for families and groups.

Storybook Gardens

Storybook Gardens isn’t just for the summer! Members get in all spring/summer/fall for the warm weather Storybook fun and all winter for the skating trail.

Kidscape

Those grouchy, blah days with the kids always seem to strike when the money tree is a little picked over, don’t they? With a membership you can stop in at this Indoor Playground anytime. A short play, a long play, it doesn’t matter! Anytime you need to get out of the house and they need to burn off some energy, drop on in and play.

Adventures on Wonderland

For those of you at the other end of the city, the same benefits apply to AOW. They don’t have memberships, but you can get a gift certificate to be applied to their admission whenever you need to get out of the house.

Community Centres

London has some great community centres that have memberships and passes available for drop-in programs like open gym and rollerskating.

Gift Guide: Tickets

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Continuing on with our Gift Guides, today we offer some more suggestions for non-toy gifts this holiday season. If you would like to give your child an experience instead of more ‘stuff’ then this is for you!

London is a fabulous city for families. There are so many events that come through here, all you have to do is know about them and buy your tickets. For Christmas, everyone from children to adults can find an event to enjoy. Here are the highlights of what is coming to London (as of yesterday – keep tabs on our Facebook page for any new entertainment announcements over the next few weeks!). The age groupings are just loose suggestions, most events do not have age restrictions unless noted.

FAMILIES/CHILDREN

Wild Kratts Live at Centennial Hall, December 27, 2014

Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival at Budweiser Gardens, January 4, 2015

Disney on Ice – Worlds of Fantasy at Budweiser Gardens, January 29 to February 1, 2015

Mike the Knight in the Great Scavenger Hunt! at Centennial Hall, March 10, 2015

FAMILY/KIDS-TEENS

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Gift Guide: Gift Cards

gift guide 4

At Christmas time, people become very divided on the issue of gift cards. One group of people love them for their quickness and ease of purchase. Those same people probably love to receive them as well and shop happily for themselves, selecting the exact item that they want. The other group of people see it as completely impersonal, the lack of thought required defeating the purpose of giving a gift.

Though there is some validity to both sides of the argument, gift cards do provide a great option for families who would like to cut back on the amount of tangible ‘stuff’ that is given and received at Christmas. Toys can be overwhelming. Gift cards can be more than an ‘easy out’, they can also be an invitation to share in an experience at a later date. Here are some of our suggestions:

Coffee Shop

A Tim’s GC is a quick and easy way to say thank you to an adult, but for a child this can be a much bigger adventure. Something as simple as a $5 card allows for two outings for a spontaneous treat. Hot chocolate and a donut? You’ll have to look hard for a kid who wouldn’t want that, from toddler to teenager. A coffee date with your kid is a great opportunity for a little one-on-one time, allowing them to pay makes them feel grown up and special. Tuck one of these in their stocking and schedule an hour over the Christmas holidays where the two of you can get a cup of cheer. Maybe they’ll even splurge on your coffee.

Book Store

Children love hanging out at the library, which is why many book stores have adopted a similar ‘hands on’ philosophy in the kids section. Touch. Read. Look. Play. And Mom, break out that wallet and pay. Or not! A book store is another one of my favourite places to let my children take time and explore. New authors, new stories, new doors opening to their imagination. I have a hard time saying no to a new book, so a GC is a win-win for all of us. A kid in a candy store has nothing on one of my kids in a book store, and allowing them to make their own choices is a great way to encourage that love of reading.

iTunes

If you have any sort of iPad/iPod/iPhone then you probably already know the value of an iTunes GC. While it is easy to stick to those free kids apps, sometimes it is nice to be able to drop a little money on the ones you have to pay for. Music is also a great iTunes purchase or a couple of episodes of their favourite cartoon for those long car rides or endless waiting room waits. Give them the GC as a gift or use it yourself and wrap a bow around the iPod as a hint of where to find their gift.  Continue reading

Gift Guide: Charities and Donations

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In honour of Giving Tuesday, we are starting our 2014 Gift Guide with a few options for gifts that support some of the top causes both local and globally. If you want to give a gift that will start a ripple effect, this is the list for you. Charity gifts are a fantastic way to recognize people who are hard to shop for or for professionals who are unable to accept tangible gifts or for people who just don’t want anything. Please note that since many of these gifts are online, you will need to purchase/donate sooner than later in order to have it all come together by Christmas.

Unicef Canada: Survival Gifts

Choose from over 60 Survival Gifts from Unicef that help children in need around the world. Gifts begin at just $9 for two bed nets to prevent malaria and hit every price point up from there with food, vaccinations, educational supplies, toys, medicine, safe water supplies, and many more. Recipients can either receive a paper card or a personalized card for the gift in their honour.

Plan Canada: Gifts of Hope

Similar to the above, Plan Canada has gifts that help children around the world. Their gifts begin at $10 and go up from there, including gifts such as fruit trees for $15, stacks of books for $60, and a baby buffalo for $250. With Plan Canada you also get the option of mailing a card or emailing a card to the recipient for the gift purchased in their name.

World Wildlife Foundation: Wildlife Adoption

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