How to keep toys fresh and exciting during the long winter months

Pley toy rental
Tomorrow is the start of our school district's five-day, mid-winter break. Families refer to it as "ski week", but we don't have any plans to ski or travel. We'll be spending it here at home, which means the kids will play with toys, mess up the house, and complain about being bored.... all within the first 2 hours. That scenario will repeat infinitely for the entire break (or at least it will feel like it!).

Do your kids complain about boredom even though they have a million toys? Honestly, I feel like the more toys they have, the quicker they get bored with them. Kids can get overwhelmed when presented with too many choices, and it can be all too easy to get into a rut, especially during these long winter months. Here are six ways to help your child keep their toys fresh and fun:

Rotate toys

You know the saying: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Move some toys to the attic or garage; every so often, swap them out with toys already in the toy box. Your child will welcome the reappearance of the toys, and won't have time to miss the old toys because they'll be so busy playing with the "new" ones.

Play with toys in new ways

Help your child get creative with their toys and give them new life. It's okay to disregard the instructions sometimes! Suggest combining toys that normally don't get played with together. The Mousetrap game that everyone is bored with can become an obstacle course for LEGO minifigs. That Hot Wheels race track can become a ski slope for Barbie dolls, and stuffed animals can inhabit a pretend zoo staffed by American Girl dolls.

Invite other kids to come and play

Having a friend over changes the dynamic of play, because friends bring in new ideas... and new toys! Often all that's required for a child to show renewed interest in a toy is to have a friend show interest in the toy as well.

Take a break from toys

Challenge your kids to see if they can survive without toys for a week. Their natural creativity will come to the forefront, and they'll find ways to play with sticks, stones, and snow. Siblings can play hand clap games or hide-and-seek, or put on a play. Ordinary household items can become toys -- think couch forts and pretend kitchens!

Organize a toy swap

On your next group playdate, have everyone bring five toys to swap, and have each child pick 5 toys to borrow for a week. Kids are happy because they get to play with five new toys, and parents are happy because they didn't need to spend anything or make more room in the toy box. Have parents agree on the selection process before hand (to minimize hurt feelings in case everyone wants the same toy), and make sure all toys are properly labeled (so they eventually make their way back to their owners).

Rent toys

Have you thought about a toy rental service? I didn't even know such a thing existed until I was introduced to Pley -- and now that I have, I think it's the perfect way to expose your kids to new toys (without the financial commitment) and them interested.  It's like Netflix for toys -- sign up at, select the monthly subscription plan you want, make a list of the toys your child would like to try out, then sit back and wait until the first set arrives. Keep the toys for as long as your child is interested in them. When your child is ready to try something new, send it back in Pley's pre-paid mailing box, and get the next toy on your list. Your child gets all of the fun without the commitment, clutter, or expense.
Pley toy rental

Disclosure: This is a compensated post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Label Daddy: perfect for summer camp, school, and beyond

Label Daddy
It's difficult to believe that February is here, and it's even more difficult to believe that registration for many summer camps have already begun! Winter break has barely ended, and here we are, having to plan for summer break, but with all of the popular camps selling out quickly, it's really best to register early and plan early.

You can't think about summer camp without thinking of camp labels, so it's never too early to check out Label Daddy. Their Camp Pack collection contains all the labels your child will need for summer camp, and if you only want 1 particular kind of label, you can choose from their wide assortment of labels. They have a label for everything, from pencils to clothes to shoes to luggage tags and more.

Label Daddy labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant!  Their exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp! These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

Label Daddy

Label Daddy labels are easy to customize online. Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more. Preview your labels online, and order with just a few clicks. I recently had the opportunity to order labels and I can't say enough nice things about them. I've been ordering from Label Daddy since 2009 and this latest set of labels exemplifies why I've been a fan for so long. They are so durable, so bright and colorful (this time I chose more generic labels without logos), and they stick to practically anything. These labels are practically a guarantee that your kids' stuff finds its way back home!

Disclosure: I received a sample set of labels to review, courtesy of Label Daddy via The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Color Me Rad comes to San Jose on March 12

Color Me Rad
Lately, 3Po and Jammy have been obsessed with their mile times. 3Po has gotten his time under 7 minutes, and Jammy's is just above 7, but they are determined to break 6 minutes by the time they move on to high school! They already do a lot of running on their soccer team, but I said that if they really want to see improvements in their mile times, they need to do some interval training, mixing up sprints and some longer distances.

To help motivate them to run, we've made it our goal to sign up for one or more fun runs this year, and the one they are most interested in is the Color Me Rad run, coming to San Jose on March 12. Miracle of miracles, they don't have any soccer games scheduled that weekend, so it looks like Color Me Rad is a go!!  They are so excited about the prospect of getting showered in color from head to toe as they run. It certainly makes every single kilometer an interesting experience! I think this is a great first run for anyone, any age, and any fitness level. The 5k distance is totally doable, and there will be so much going on, the run will be over before we even know it!

About Color Me Rad

Color Me RadColor Me Rad is loosely based on the Hindu Festival of Colors, otherwise known as Holi. The festive colors used are a sign of winter's end and spring's new beginnings. Or in the case of RAD; the color represents the end of lame runs and the beginning of fun runs.

Start out as clean as a newborn babe, and throughout the run, our volunteers will coat you with liquids, powders, and gels of blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow until your face, shirt, and body come out silkscreened like a tie-dyed hippie on the other side. Each section of the run adds a new explosion of color to your clean, painter's palate until you cross the finish line into a final blitzkrieg of color.

General registration is $35 ($40 after Feb 5), and it includes a race T-Shirt, RAD tattoo, a color pack, and a free Goo Guard phone case! Kids under 7 can run for free, but if you want your child to have their own shirt and color pack, it will cost $15.

Pricing increases on February 5, so sign up now at . Hope to see you there!!
Color Me Rad

Disclosure: I am receiving complimentary registration to Color Me Rad, courtesy of US Family Guide and Color Me Rad. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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The Stack is Back: IHOP's All You Can Eat Pancakes


Everyone knows that quality counts more than quantity... but sometimes it's nice to have both. Happily, that's exactly what IHOP is offering with their "All You Can Eat Pancakes" event, which runs till February 14 at participating IHOP restaurants nationwide.

"All You Can Eat Pancakes" is a pancake lover's dream! You can start with a plate of five pancakes for $5.99, or a breakfast combo with eggs, hash browns and breakfast meats like sausage, bacon, or ham plus a plate of four pancakes, starting at $8.99 (by the way, that's even cheaper than the regular breakfast combo -- without the unlimited pancakes!). Once you finish your plate of pancakes, just ask a server for more and they will fork over another plate of fluffy, buttermilk-y goodness! I like that they serve the pancakes two by two, so customers can truly order all they can eat, but there's less waste (plus you get to eat the pancakes while they're hot!).

We've been taking advantage of IHOP's "All  You Can Eat Pancakes" every year since we first heard about it. This year, they've introduced something new: for $1.99, you can order a small bowl of fruit toppings to go with your pancakes! You can choose from strawberry, blueberry, peach, or apple cinnamon. We tried all 4, and every one in the family has a different favorite, so we're pretty sure there's no way you can make a bad choice.

We're not exactly delicate eaters, but we could only manage to finish 12 plates (24 pancakes) between the five of us. Then again, the boys aren't teenagers yet, so in future years I fully expect to see a lot more empty pancake plates stacked up on our table!  If you think you can polish off a few more pancakes than we did, IHOP is running a friendly competition called the Empty Plate Stack Challenge. Don't worry, you don't have to take the challenge up on your own -- take a group of friends to your local IHOP restaurant, see how many plates of All You Can Eat Pancakes you can conquer together, then upload a team photo of your empty plate stacks to Instagram. Tag them with #Panuary and #Entry along with your team name and number of pancakes eaten!

Sounds good? Getting hungry? Go to IHOP and get ready, set, eat!!

Disclosure: I received a gift card from IHOP which partially subsidized the cost of my family's recent visit to try out the All You Can Eat Pancakes promotion. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Ways to reduce the post-holiday toy clutter

Pley toy rental

This post is sponsored by Pley

A few days after the kids returned to school from their winter break, I packed up our holiday decor and got to work on ridding our living room of all the holiday mess.  This is always the worst part of the post-holiday season; the loneliness and the mess is such a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of last month.  It's just now dawning on me that I have to find new storage/hiding spaces for all of the new stuff my kids received over the holidays!!

I thought this year would be different, because we bought the boys an early Christmas present -- new bikes -- so they knew they wouldn't be opening big, bright presents on Christmas morning. At least, that was the plan. With the grandparents visiting, and all the stocking stuffers I capitulated on, plus the small presents that didn't cost much, but took up a lot of space, they ended up with tons of stuff anyway.  In addition, they were born on December 30, so they received birthday presents as well!

Our family of five lives in a 1700 square foot house. It's not exactly urban density housing, but it's certainly small enough that even a small mess makes a big impact, so reducing clutter and keeping stuff organized is really important. Here are five things we are doing to manage our ever-growing stash of toys:

  1. Dismantle some LEGO models that having been clogging up the top of their dresser.
  2. Clean up their storage space (last weekend we went through their old art supplies drawers and freed up a ton of space by throwing away old coloring books, markers, and crayons).
  3. Borrow more books from the library instead of buying them.
  4. If they want new toys, they have to get rid of some old ones (by donating or throwing away).
  5. If relatives ask them what they want for their birthdays, consider asking for the gift of "experiences" -- movie tickets, a cooking class -- or money towards their college savings account.

Strategy number 6 is something we haven't yet done, but looks like it might be a good option: Pley. Pley is a toy rental service that lets members receive unlimited toys (one at a time) delivered directly to their door. Pley gives subscribers access to a large selection of educative toys, including 400+ LEGO sets and popular robotics toys. Pley packages get delivered to your door and when the kids are done playing, they can return them for a new toy. Plans start as low as $19.99/month and all plans include free delivery and unlimited rentals.
Pley toy rental

Key benefits of Pley include:

  • Kids always have access to the latest and greatest toys. 
  • Due to the variety, kids don't lose interest in the toys.
  • Costs less than buying toys. Average savings for members is about $800 per year.
  • Less clutter: you don't need to store as many toys, only the toys that the kids are currently obsessed with. No more toys sitting unused on shelves!
  • Kids learn the concepts of sharing and reducing waste.

One big reason holding me back is that my boys are tweens (age 12), and the toy selection (other than LEGO and robotics) may not be as wide for boys this age... but I've heard that Pley is expanding their toy range to include more robotics toys like drones!

Pley toy rental

Did the amount of toys your children received over the holidays overwhelm you? What will you do about it in the new year?

Disclosure: This is a compensated post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Giveaway: Too Sweet Boutique doll pouch for American Girl

You could win an adorable doll supply pouch from Too Sweet Boutique! Keep reading to find out how to enter
American Girl is making waves in the diabetes community with the release of their new diabetes care kit. The kit comes with the supplies needed to manage diabetes, including an insulin pump, insulin injection pen, glucose tablets, blood sugar monitor, food log, and more. What a great way to include girls with diabetes in creative play! They can now play with American Girl dolls that look just like them and go through the same things that they do.

American Girl is not the first company to make toy accessories for kids with diabetes. Too Sweet Boutique is a company that makes pouches that hold kids' insulin pumps, and they also make matching doll pouches. Too Sweet Boutique sent me samples of the doll pouches ($18), and they are adorable!

The doll pouch has a working zipper so kids can put in their doll's diabetes supplies (note: the supplies in the photo above are from American Girl's diabetes care kit, they are not included with the pouch). It has an elastic belt that easily slips around the American Girl doll's waist.

They come in a variety of cute prints, as well as solid colors. These pouches can be ordered along with the child-sized diabetes pump pouch in matching colors, so the girl can match with her American Girl doll.

By the way, the pouch isn't limited to holding diabetes supplies -- it looks just like a regular fanny pack. It can hold a toy doll phone, notebook, camera, water bottle, snack, or other toy accessory for American Girl doll. I personally think that these make adorable on-the-go packs for any American Girl doll!

Many of the prints on Too Sweet Boutique's website are "boyish" prints, with cars, trucks, Star Wars characters, and more, so even girls who don't like "girly" prints as well as boys can order these toy pouches! By the way, the pouches are not limited to use on 18-inch dolls -- they will fit on similar sized stuffies, such as our Build A Bear teddy bear.

Win a Too Sweet Boutique Doll Pouch

Diabetes nonprofit Carb DM is giving away a doll pouch (ARV: $18) from Too Sweet Boutique!  To enter, leave a comment on Carb DM's Facebook post, or enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Thanks to Too Sweet Boutique for providing review/product giveaway samples and to Carb DM/Too Sweet Boutique for runing the giveaway. Carb DM is a client but this is not a sponsored post; I'm just sharing the giveaway because I love American Girl. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Watch Monster Jam on Feb 20

Monster Jam

In one month's time, Oakland Coliseum will be rumbling with excitement, because Monster Jam is coming to town!  The 2015 Monster Jam show was amazing, and 2016 promises to be even better. Keep reading below for a show description, tips, videos, coloring sheets, and a ticket discount!

About Monster Jam

Monster Jam is the world's largest and most famous monster truck tour featuring the biggest names in monster trucks including Grave Digger®, Maximum Destruction®, Monster Mutt®, El Toro Loco®, Captain's Curse® and Blue Thunder®. Monster Jam performs to the delight of families with three elements to every show -- the pit party, racing, and freestyle. 125 tour stops and 325+ performances make up the Monster Jam tour that also features a large consumer products division and retail presence. Two world champions are crowned each year at the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas -- the racing world champion and the freestyle world champion.

Monster Jam® is the hottest edge-of-your-seat, live motor sports property on the planet and largest touring family show in North America! These stadium and arena events blow the roof off traditional motor sports racing, as 1,500 HP monster trucks fly 30 feet in the air, flattening anything in their path. Monster Jam® events are an electrified, entertaining atmosphere with a variety of specialty acts and events.

Want to find out more? Check out my post from last year, A Beginner's Guide To Monster Jam, with detailed descriptions of the monster trucks and what to expect.

Also, check out Monster Jam online:
Visit Monster Jam on the web
Like Monster Jam on Facebook:
Follow Monster Jam on Twitter:
Follow Monster Jam on Instagram:


Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your day and enjoy the event to its fullest!
  • The Gates open at 5:00PM
  • Parking at the Oracle Arena/ O.Co Coliseum is $40. Cash and credit cards are accepted.
  • The Pit Party is from 3:))PM - 5:45PM
  • The show starts at 7:00PM
  • Bring ear plugs!

Monster Jam Pit Party

The Pit Party is your chance to see these ginormous monster trucks up close, so don't miss it! The Pit Party opens about 2 hours before the main show begins. Pit Party Passes are $10 but you can stop by any participating MetroPCS location to pick up your complimentary pit pass. Free pit passes will be available while supplies last at participating Metro PCS locations from January 18-February 19.

Monster Jam Coloring Sheet

Here's something to get your kid excited for the upcoming Monster Jam: a coloring sheet featuring the awesome Max-D Monster Truck!

Monster Jam Discount Tickets

There's still time to get your Monster Jam tickets -- don't forget, the show will only be in the Bay Area for one day!  If you don't live in the Bay Area, check out the Monster Jam schedule to see when they'll be performing at an arena near you.

Here's a great discount: Save $5 on adult tickets with code LOCAL. Kids tickets are always 50% off (no qualifier needed).
Savings valid on regularly priced $30, $25, and $15 seats. Savings not valid day of show. No double discounts.

Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Show information (in italics) is provided by Feld Entertainment. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Giveaway: Tickets to Monster Jam in Oakland on Feb 20!

Monster Jam
Attention, Bay Area families! Monster Jam is coming back for a death-defying, adrenaline-pumping, rip-roaring show! Last year it was held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, and this year it's returning to its 2014 venue, Oakland's Oracle Arena.  It's part stunt show, part racing competition, part freestyle competition, and all fun. I'm not into cars and trucks but I've watched Monster Jam for 2 years runningand loved it immensely.  I felt lightheaded with all the gasping I did as each truck threatened to crash and burn, and I yelled myself hoarse as they completed their crazy stunts. It's hard to describe the spectacle of gigantic trucks with 60+ inch wheels, jumping over a hundred feet and flipping in the air, you just have to see it yourself!

About Monster Jam

Monster Jam ® brings high-octane, motorsports entertainment to fans around the world. The action-packed live events feature the most recognizable trucks including Grave Digger ® , Max-D ® and many more, performing jaw-dropping displays of gravity-defying feats. Fans can also experience the non-stop racing excitement year-round on FS1.

Monster Jam

Here's the list of trucks scheduled to appear on Feb 20:
  • Destroyer driven by Roger Stidell
  • FS1 Cleatus driven by Frank Krmel
  • Devastator driven by Mark Schroeder
  • El Diablo driven by Lupe Soza
  • ]El Toro Loco driven by Chuck Werner
  • Grave Digger driven by Dennis Anderson
  • Gas Monkey Garage driven by BJ Johnson
  • Max-D driven by Neil Elliott
  • Metal Mulisha driven by Todd Leduc
  • Playin for Keeps driven by Tony Canedo
  • Obsessed driven by Rick Swanson
  • Obsession driven by Eric Swanson
  • Titan driven by Donald Epidendio
  • Time Flys driven by Kelvin Ramer
  • Wild Flower driven by Rosalee Ramer

Monster Jam Discount Tickets

Get your Monster Jam tickets ASAP because the best seats are sure to sell out quickly! Don't forget, the show will only be in the Bay Area for one day!  If you don't live in the Bay Area, check out the Monster Jam schedule to see when they'll be performing at an arena near you.

Here's a great discount: Save $5 on adult tickets with code LOCAL. Kids tickets are always 50% off (no qualifier needed). Savings valid on regularly priced $30, $25, and $15 seats. Savings not valid day of show. No double discounts.

Monster Jam Ticket Giveaway

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will receive 4 tickets to Monster Jam at the Oracle Arena on Feb 20, 2016! To enter, just leave a comment on this post and tell me the name of your favorite Monster Jam monster truck. Giveaway ends 11:59 PST on January 24, 2016. Open only to residents of the SF Bay Area. Good luck!

Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Show information (in italics) is provided by Feld Entertainment. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Meet Lea (doll giveaway!)

American Girl doll GOTY 2016 Lea
It's time to meet Lea Clark, American Girl's 2016 Girl of the Year! Lea is a photographer and an animal lover who likes to travel and explore. In Lea's 2-book series, girls can read about Lea's adventures when she goes to visit her older brother Zac in the Amazon rainforest. I went to the American Girl Store in Palo Alto to get a closer look at Lea and take some photos to share with you! Keep reading to find out more about Lea and her collection -- and enter for the chance to win a Lea doll of your own!

I think Lea is one of the prettiest Girls of the Year. She has hazel eyes and long, wavy, light-brown hair. It could be the store lighting, but it looks to me like Lea's skin tone is slightly tanned, which would make sense given that she's in Brazil. I love the way her hair curls at the bottom!
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (10)

Lea's dress is so cute, and I can totally see her wearing it to any tropical place.
Lea Clark

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lea comes with a compass necklace and a messenger bag ( not part of her Accessory set, they both just come with the basic doll!).
Lea's messenger bag

Lea's sandals are so adorable!
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (9)

Let's take a look at some of Lea's outfits and accessories, starting with the grandest of them all, Lea's Rainforest House! This gigantic playset comes with a ton of accessories -- and for $395, it had better! Her house has a thatched roof, lantern, hammock, and so much more.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (1)

The loft bed has bamboo railings plus bedding in bright colors. Decorations include shelves, a flower vase, a framed poster, and post cards. Lea is so close to nature, there are even tiny animals -- a blue butterfly, a parrot, and a tiny green frog -- and flit in and out of her house.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (3)

I love, love, love this outdoor shower with mosaic tile backing! Also check out the soap-on-a-rope, seashell chimes and mosquito netting. Detail, detail, detail.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (4)

The table and chair look like they are made with rattan, bamboo, and wood. There are a ton of native foods as well as utensils, a plate, a rice bowl, and a fruit drink. Lea can also use the table to work on her tablet and keyboard.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (2)

A less extravagant, more practical playset is Lea's Fruit Stand, which is a relative "bargain" at $150. It includes lots and lots of pretend fruit, food, plates, utensils, a blender, baskets, counter tops, a working window, and more! (BTW check out Lea's Bahia outfit, $28 -- I would totally wear that printed top).
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea

Here's a closer look at the fruit stand.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (8)

Like the Rainforest House, the outside of the Fruit Stand has great detail, so girls can play from all sides. The side in the photo has a toucan perch, toucan, menu holder, and outdoor table. Girls can put decorative stickers on the side walls.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (7)

Lea gets to explore the ocean in a clear-bottomed kayak with removable sail.  The Ocean Kayak set ($85) includes a life vest but Lea's 2 piece swimsuit is sold separately (it's part of her Mix and Match Swim Set). The sea turtle is also a separate item.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (5)

Here's the other half of Lea's Mix and Match Swim Set ($34). Everything else in the photo is part of her Beach Accessories set.
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (16)

Lea's collection comes with not one, not two, but three plush animals! Because she's in the rainforest, the animals are also rainforest animals -- a Three Toed Sloth ($20), a Margay Cat ($20), and a Sea Turtle($18). And because no GOTY collection is complete without a worthy cause, American Girl will donate $1 to the World Wildlife Fund for each animal purchased, up to $100,000. Way to go, American Girl!
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea

Here's Lea with her new Brazilian friends. She's wearing her Rainforest Pajamas ($24).
American Girl GOTY 2016 Lea (19)

Win a Lea Doll and Book

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Lea doll and book! Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below by 1/26/2016. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Giveaway doll provided by American Girl via Weber Shandwick. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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