I haven’t written much about parenting lately, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I want to give my children some space and not overshare details on their lives, especially as they get older, but also because I am often so overwhelmed with motherhood that when I do find a chance to sit down and update the blog I’m more inclined to write about something more frivolous like fashion or decorating. (And do people even read these types of posts anymore???) However, Jack is 7 years old now and he’s really becoming his own little person with unique interests, so I thought I’d share some of those today in case you are a parent/caregiver/babysitter of a little boy (or girl) who might love these same sorts of things! And as a bonus, many of these things are free or affordable.
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- Amazon Echo Dot. Jack received an Amazon Echo for his 7th birthday because he needed a clock for his room and I thought he’d enjoy being able to interact with Alexa. You can set it up so that the Echo has a kids’ profile that is age appropriate. We have a time limit set on it so he can’t listen to it when he should be sleeping. He asks “her” the weather, to tell him kids jokes, and he listens to podcasts. (More on podcasts below.) He can also listen to music, Disney Stories, and all sorts of other things.
- Brains On, A Science Podcast for Kids. This is perhaps Jack’s greatest love these days. Any time we are in the car he requests to listen to it, and when he’s in his room playing with toys or looking at books he plays it on his Amazon Echo (Alexa). I believe it is a skill Alexa automatically has when you set up a child’s profile in the Echo. He loves to learn, and is like a little sponge when it comes to science and random facts about anything and everything. The episodes are really great and they do a great job of breaking down complicated topics to make them easy to understand. They’re engaging and funny and even I enjoy listening! He also really enjoys Wow in the World, which is funny and educational, though a bit more irritating to listen to as a parent due to some of the silly character voices. (The girls, who are 3 and 5, are not interested in Brains On but Caroline does enjoy Wow in the World because it’s a bit sillier.)
- Highlights Magazine. My grandparents started sending my children Highlights Magazines a few years ago and they always look forward to receiving their “news” each month. Jack receives the regular Highlights Magazine (for ages 6-12) now, but received their younger version- High Five (for ages 3-5)- until he turned 6 (Caroline and Tate receive this one now and both love it). They also have a baby version called Hello (for ages 0-2) that is durable and short and fun for when they’re smaller. It’s a trip down memory lane seeing these arrive in the mail because I always loved the magazine as a child!
- Bakugan. If you haven’t heard of these yet, they’re kind of a mixture between Pokemon, Transformers, and Pogs/Slammers of our youth. They’re these little transformer things that are smaller than the size of an egg and they open up when they touch metal because they have a magnet on the base. In order to “battle” you’re supposed to roll them over the little magnetic “cores” that come with them and if your Bakugan opens up on a particular core you get to keep that one. Jack mostly opens and closes them and carries them around because he loves little pocket-sized things. He received this case for Christmas and he loves that they all fit inside nice and neatly.
- Television Shows. Jack seems to gravitate toward shows that are educational, and Wild Kratt’s (animals), Ada Twist Scientist (science), and Number Blocks (math) are his favorites. Wild Kratt’s is on PBS Kids (and Prime, I believe), and the other two are on Netflix. He also loves Bluey, which is on Disney, and I’d have to say that this is my favorite kid show ever. So clever and realistic and funny. I enjoy all of these shows too, as do the girls.
- Minecraft. This is one of those things that’s a bit obnoxious but we try to limit tablet time to the weekends and he is not allowed to play with anyone other than his sister, who often sits right next to him on the sofa while they play. They build houses, grow crops, mine for minerals, raise animals…I don’t fully understand the allure of it because it’s so blocky and basic as far as animation goes, but kids seem to love it. He plays it on his Amazon Fire Tablet (he has the version from a few years ago). These are the wireless headphones my kids have.
- Riding His Bike. Arlington is a great place to ride bikes because there are so many bike and running paths all over town. Jack got a new bike from Santa this year, and he received a Trek Wahoo 24. I went to our local Trek store and they were really helpful and advised me to go with a 24 inch bike because he’s so tall for a 7 year old. I’m glad we did! We went with a high end bike for a couple of reasons. First, we have a lot of hills that I really needed him to be able to climb all on his own without walking, so a quality bike with straightforward gears was really important. Second, I didn’t have the time nor a place to assemble a bike myself, so buying a bike that they were able to build and hold until Christmas was really helpful. Third, Trek has a buy back program, so if we decide to not pass it down to Caroline at some point, as long as we sell it back within 3 years we will get 50% of the amount we paid to use toward a new bike. He will be able to ride this bike for years and he is really proud that he’s figured out how to use his hand brakes and how to shift the gears up and down. Despite being almost twice the size of his old bike (he looked like a clown riding it because he’s grown so much), it weighs significantly less and is much better suited for an active boy living in a hilly area. We practiced in a parking lot and then in our driveway and after that he was ready to tackle our bike paths and hills! It’s been really fun going on bike rides with him and I’m excited for the weather to get warmer so we can go more often.
- Snap Circuits. Jack received this kit for Christmas from my in-laws and he thinks it’s so cool. He’s able to build circuits that launch a fan, play a noise, light up, etc. and it’s done in such a genius way- with snaps! The pieces connect to the base and each other with snaps so they’re easy to move and change.
- His Watch. Jack received a Garmin Vivofit Jr. for Christmas in 2020 or 2021 and he loves it. It’s pretty basic but he loves to see how many steps he’s taken and he enjoys knowing what time it is at any given moment. It can sync to my phone so that I can reward him with stars for doing chores, and he can change his watch face too. I’m sure we’ll upgrade to a Gizmo or Apple Watch (with a kids profile) so that we can communicate once he’s older (I plan to put off on getting a phone for as long as possible because I know how addicting they can be), but for now I think this watch is the perfect choice for a kid like Jack.
- Tennis. I’m not sure if he’s “passionate” about tennis, but he’s been attending weekly tennis lessons for over a year now and he seems to enjoy it and he is improving. It’s teaching him how to focus, listen to coaches, and how to be a good winner as well as a good loser. I grew up playing sports so I really want my kids to play sports too, but at this point I’m not sure if they will be as interested in them as I was. Time will tell. For now, I figure it doesn’t hurt having him involved in a great sport like tennis that he will be able to play his whole life, should he want to. He also plays soccer in the fall and spring and loves to swim. We plan to do swim team this summer.
- Small Stuffed Animals. Jack loves little toys that he can easily fit in a pocket or hold non-stop, and right now mini Squishmallows are his favorite (not sure why they’re so pricy now- they were much cheaper when I bought them last year), and he also loves the little alligators that come with plush eggs and this larger mom alligator (think puppy surprise of the early ’90s). Caroline has the unicorn version of this and she loves it too, so there are all sorts of options depending on what your child is interested in.
- Clothing. It’s funny when you start noticing themes when your kids dress themselves. For the longest time, Jack would just grab whatever was on top of the drawer, but now he definitely has his favorites. These pull-on tech pants in khaki are his go-to, and I like that they look a little dressy because they’re khaki but they’re actually a swishier athletic material. His favorite shirts are these simple long sleeve t-shirts with a small pocket on the chest (he loves to carry a little stuffed animal in it), or these long sleeved hooded t-shirts. His favorite sneakers are these pull on Nike Flex Runner Shoes. We still need to tackle laces tying, so these are a great option that he thinks look cool and he says they’re really comfortable.
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