Our Favorite Drivable Toys

From even the earliest of ages, many kids love to have their own vehicles to play with.  Being able to climb inside a toy and move around often gives them a sense of freedom and control.  Here are our favorite drivable vehicles for kids of all ages.

The Cozy Coupe
This is the classic, early vehicle for toddlers.  Self propelled by the child’s own feet (Flintstones style), the Cozy Coupe is probably the most popular drivable toy.  Cozy Coupe out of gas?  You can also get a nice “fuel pump” for the kids to play with.

Whisper Ride II
The Whisper Ride is more of a “parent propelled” vehicle, which makes it great for family walks.  The moveable steering wheel allows the child to feels as though they’re driving, but the pusher is setting the course.


Rollin’ Giraffe Ride-on
The nice thing about ride-on vehicles is the increased coordination challenges required.  Balance and control are necessary, but the child still has a sense of fun and motion.

Power Wheels Jeep Wrangler
Now we’re getting to the big-kids stuff!  This 12-volt powered Jeep gives the more adventurous kids a sense of freedom and exploration. They’ll definitely need some guidance at the beginning, but it won’t take long until your child is exploring the back yard with abandon.

John Deere Ground Force Tractor with Trailer
For the more agriculturally-oriented child, this tractor with trailer is an amazing toy.  Load, drive, unload, repeat.


BMW i8 Concept 6-volt Electric Ride-On Car
For the more refined toddler, this BMW electric vehicle can be driven for up to 45 minutes between charges, and even has an audio input for playing music while cruising.

Gifts That Promote Language Development in Young Children

Post by Hallie Bulkin, Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Therapist, MA CCC-SLP

The best way to work on speech, language and social skills in young children is through play. If you’re like me, I never know what to buy my friends’ children for their birthdays. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite toys to use when providing speech therapy to young children. The great thing about the toys I use is they are both therapist and child-approved! The best thing about this list is I have taken the most popular toys (chosen by pediatric clients) time and time again!

Mr. Potato Head
A few years ago, I found this at Costco. Apparently, they also sell it at Kohls. If you can’t find the giant potato head, look for a potato head family! This is great for talking about facial features, body parts and family. You can work on labeling the objects (e.g., teeth, nose, ear), describing it (e.g., red nose, pink ear, green hat), and building a family (e.g., mommy, dada, baby, etc.). This one is great for working on language skills!


Cars, Trucks, Trains & Planes
This is one of my favorites. Little girls and boys love this toy! The bucket is filled with different color cars, trains and trucks that can be attached to each other. There are boats and airplanes, too. This toy is great to work on making requests when your child needs help attaching the vehicles. I often model “go in” or “put it on” as I attach the vehicles with the child. Once we connect them, I will often make a sound effect as well (e.g., “boop!”) to show children playing with sounds and words is fun, which will encourage them to


Puppets on a Stick by Educational Insights
Another favorite! These puppets are like magic; they get any child to talk! The motion of the mouth helps kids work on speech sounds, language production and more! One of our latest activities includes making playdoh cookies and feeding the monsters. With puppets, the sky’s the limit!


Baby Jenna by Melissa & Doug & Feeding Set
This is yet another great toy for girls AND boys (yes! Boys, too)! Not only is it good for learning body parts, you can also use it to label clothing, basic concepts (colors, size, other objects to feed and care for the baby), and even talk about feelings (e.g., “baby is crying…she feels hungry/sleepy” etc.). You can combine language skills and ask your child to label body parts on the baby (e.g., “where’s babies nose?” “where’s your nose?”) while helping your child identify his or her own body parts !


Nesting Cups
Nesting cups are always a fun time and a toy that evolves as your child grows. For little ones, simply nesting them together can be exciting. As children get older, they like to put things in and take things out of containers, and you can work on “put in” and “take out” at this stage. As your child gets slightly older, stacking (“stack up”) and knocking the tower down (“knock down”) teaches cause and effect. This is also a fun toy for working on colors, counting 1-10, and size (big, medium, small…big, bigger, biggest, etc.). Nesting cups are great for sensory play (think: sand or rice table) and filling them up (“fill up”)/dumping them out (“dump out”). Last but not least, many of my pediatric clients love to turn the stacking cups upside down and create a farm with animals on top of each cup. Let your child’s imagination run wild with this one!


Farm Animals
Larger farm animals in any capacity are fantastic! Early speech and language development can be focused on making the sounds of farm animals (“A cow says…moo”) and then later asking, “what does a cow say?” while expecting the child to answer the ‘What-question’ with “moo.” There is a lot of creative play that can be had among the farm animals as well. Turn any box into a barn where the animals live and play or a train where the animals can take a trip to visit friends at the next farm! If you prefer smaller farm animals, you may like the whole barn and smaller animals you get with this toy.


Magnetic Farm Hide & Seek Puzzle by Melissa & Doug
I love to use this for a variety of goals. You can name the animals, respond to questions like “what do you see?” (e.g., response may include “I see a __(fill in animal)”), talk about what’s in front and behind the barn doors, locate all of the chicks that one of my preschoolers pointed out are in specific places on the puzzle, or play “knock-knock, who’s there?” while working on open/close. The sky is the limit with this Melissa & Doug puzzle.


Dress up clothes
From Disney princesses to community helpers to superheroes, you can’t go wrong! All children LOVE to dress up and pretend they are a character from their favorite book or show. Whether you are talking about community helpers and their very important jobs or enjoying make believe with princesses and superheroes, there is a lot of ground to cover. You can read a book and then use a costume to act it out. Bring in a friend or a sibling, and now you can role play even more and work on those social skills! When you bring in a sibling or peer, following directions always becomes an important task(especially when one of the children is dishing out those directions to the other). Have fun with this one. Playing dress up is great for the imagination!


Zingo by ThinkFun
For older preschoolers, this is a great game. You can have a lot of fun naming what you pick, taking turns, and matching pictured items. This game works on social skills (hello, turn-taking!), memory, focus and concentration, which all preschoolers need in preparation for Kindergarten.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
If you have a preschooler, you have most likely heard of the book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?” If you don’t, get it here. . This is a GREAT book and I was SO excited to see they turned it into a game. My four-year-old clients LOVE to play the game, and I LOVE to see them expand their responses to “what questions” using phrases that start with “I see a ____.” This is one to add to your game room!


I hope that you find these gift ideas helpful. They are speech-language pathologist  & child-approved. The sky is the limit when it comes to these toys. Happy shopping!

With Love,
Hallie Bulkin

Announcing Charity and School Links

Great news for charities and schools! GiftAround is now capable of creating unique links for charities and schools. When someone clicks on the charity or school’s unique link and then creates a GiftAround party page, we will automatically designate a percentage of gift contributions to go to the school or charity.

To get a unique GiftAround link for your school or favorite charity, contact us at hello@giftaround.com


Hosting a Harry Potter Themed Birthday Party

The world of Harry Potter is ripe for creative decorations, costumes and party games.  We’ve collected a few of our favorite ideas for hosting your own Harry Potter party.

Golden Snitch Chocolates
From Cooking Classy, these are sure to be a hit.  Take some typical chocolate truffles and wrap them in gold foil.  Cut out some paper wing shapes and simply glue or sticker them on.


Non-Alcoholic Butterbeer
Just 5 simple ingredients go into this wonderfully delicious and creamy drink.  You can find the recipe over at Love is in my tummy.


“Wanted” Photo Board
Party guests can get their photos taken and feel like they’ve just escaped from Azkaban.  Courtesy of Trains and Tutus.


DIY Magic Wands
With some bamboo chopsticks and a little creativity, these wands will surely add to the magical party atmosphere.  Read more about how to do it Boxy Colonial.


Table Quidditch
Very clever game for your guests using easily-found items.  This makes for a great side game while the celebrations are in full swing.  Check out the details over at Farm to Fete.


 Wizard Hat Cupcakes
Clever and delicious desert idea from the fine folks over at Today.


4 Tips for a Clutter-free Playroom

Keeping a well stocked toy room neatly organized seems like an impossible task.  Young ones have a habit of playing with as many toys as they can, making piles of things everywhere and then not even thinking about cleaning up.  Fortunately, keeping the clutter manageable is not a difficult as it seems.

Here are our four tips for making things a little more organized.

  1. Everything has a place
    Unless you can put everything away at the beginning, you’ll never be able to keep it clean.   A good rule of thumb is to have 25% more storage than you have toys.  With this approach, you’ll spend less time trying to figure out where everything goes, and more time putting it away.
  2. Mix general storage with specialized storage
    Containers for stuffed animals are quite different from containers for Hot Wheels. Having a mix of both types leads to flexible solutions.  For some toys, it just doesn’t matter where they end up.  For others (like Lego blocks), they should probably all be in the same container.  Having both types of storage will simplify the process.
  3. Don’t over-label
    Some labelling is good, but having too many containers with specific purposes leads to spending time trying to find the right place for new toys. Having some “junk drawers” is a good thing.
  4. Make cleaning up a ritual
    The little ones can find fun in just about anything. Making cleaning up part of the play process can be turned into a fun game.

We’ve found that by covering these basics, keeping a clutter-free toy room becomes a little less of a Sisyphean task.  Of course, another way is to keep the amount of unused toys to a minimum, and GiftAround can certainly help with that!

9 Great Spring Activities for Preschoolers

The weather’s getting better, but for most of us (especially those of us in the midwest), it’s still not warm enough to spend hours playing at the beach.  We find it helpful to have a few fun things to do in the back of our pockets (next to the boogie wipes), to make the most of evening and weekend time together.  Here are a few fun ways to engage with your 2-5 year old this Spring.

Fly Swatter Art
This is a good outdoor art activity, unless you like the Jackson Pollack look on your walls, floors, and furniture.  We love interesting art projects that are simple to execute and this is definitely one of them!

Carrot Garden Sensory Bin
Sensory bins are a great way for kids to explore, and our kids get hooked for dozens of minutes mesmerized by all of the sounds and textures that exist.

Spring Alphabet Flower Match
This is a simple activity that also helps the older preschooler get ready for literacy.

Make Pressed Flower Art
Collect flowers, make a keepsake.  If you don’t want to buy the kit, it’s an easy enough activity to on your own. I still remember going with my grandmother for a walk in her neighborhood, collecting flowers, and then coming back to her house where I pressed the flowers in the pages of old books, and then stacked heavier books on top.  A few days later, voila – pressed flowers!  You could then glue them to paper and frame and you’ve made a keepsake and memories that will last 30+ years.

Create a Play Garde
Brainstorm ideas on what to include with your kiddo and then enlist their help in building it.  Then, when you are out gardening this spring, you will have a little helper who will be busy tending to his or her own lil plot (and won’t be trying to overwater your prize begonias).

Play-Doh Math (it’s Spring themed, but really, we think Math transcends all seasons)
There’s never a bad time to help our kids get interested in the FUNdamentals of mathematics.  These Montessori activities will help your preschool with calculus, er rather counting while utilizing her fine-motor skills and creative spirit.

Take A Hike!
Nature walks are a great way to be active, explore the outdoors, and create engaging time with your little kids.  We even like taking them in drippy April/May weather, as long as we have some decent rain boots and jackets on!  

Play ‘What’s Hiding in the Grass’
This activity is fun for the smaller set, who are still getting used to cutting.  Help your little one get excited about this little cut and find adventure that helps promote fine motor skills.

Make a Bird Feeder
This is the craft activity that keeps on giving.  Your kiddo can build this mostly on his own, you can help hang it together, and then you can spend weeks enjoying the magic that will be your little screaming with the delight as the birdies come for their nibbles.

9 Great Gifts For the Outdoors

The great outdoors are calling our names, so we wanted to put together a list of our favorite gifts for kids to use outdoors.  You know, in case you are tired of bubbles and stomp rockets.

EzyRoller Classic Ride On
We love this toy for a hundred reasons, but mostly for its staying power (and that it comes in a bazillion colors).  Not only is it certain to capture your kiddo’s attention for quite a while, but it will also grow with her!  No pedals and easy/smooth maneuvering make this ride-on a pleasure for any sunny day.

Great for ages 4 and up

Step 2 Waterfall Discovery Wall Playset
It’s like a water table that maybe your kid won’t climb into.  We love the cause and effect learning that is engrained in this toy and that it takes up a bit less space than a water table (and has less chance of becoming a mosquito breeding ground.  Also, does this not remind you of PLINKO?  

Great for ages 18 months – 5 years

Blue Island Tree Swing
If you have a big tree in your yard, you could be putting that sucker to work for you and your kids!  Enjoy hours of relaxation, with your children calmly swinging in the balmy summer air.  Or if you are at my house, listen as the kids shriek with delight

Great for ages 3 and up

A Chaise Lounge Chair
It is so hard to be a kid these days.  Give your little the gift of a little R&R in the comfort of her own backyard this summer.

Great for ages 2-5  

Pop-Up Soccer Goals
These are fun, functional, and don’t take up a crazy amount of storage space.  Let your little kicker practice for hours without fear of losing the ball to the road!  These goals are super easy to use and are a snap to set up.

Great for all ages

A Patio Playhouse
This looks like something right out of Bobby Flay’s childhood dreams.  An outdoor grilling kitchen complete with a canopy.  If you have the space in your yard for this set up, this setup is sure to keep the kids entertained and enjoying imaginative play for days on end.

Great for ages 2-8

Treasure Hunt
We love this toy, because it’s great to use as a family.  The questions come with multi-age level answers and you can use it with one child or many – pirate party anyone?!

Great for ages 3-8

Pretend Camping Gear
While we love taking real camping trips with the kids, these toys help make the long summer days/nights pass with ease without having to haul everyone and the tent and the rest of the real gear a few hours away.

Great for ages 3-6

Inflatable Water Fun
This inflatable mini waterpark is sure to delight the little kids.  It’s a pool + water slide and it has a water sprayer and a ring toss game included.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Great for ages 3-7

9 Fun Birthday Party Themes that Aren’t Disney Princesses or Thomas the Train

Harry Potter
Proudly proclaim your child’s next party to be Slytherin free.  Harry Potter and the whole Hogwarts crew make for an enchanting backdrop (like what I did there?) as the kids can sit at tables for each house and play versions of quidditch while having a spectacular feast (or lots of adorable snacks).  

Alice In Wonderland
Although she is intertwined with Disney, there’s something unmistakably unique about Alice.  Maybe it’s that she has little back story and doesn’t go chasing after a boy, and that she is just caught up in her own magical brain.  And with all that whimsy there are unlimited birthday party options.  From colorful tea party decorations to pinning the smile on the Cheshire Cat, this would be one very merry un(un)birthday indeed.

Science is still cool, right?  Ahhh, in the days before there were inorganic chemistry class and cell biology class, there was just SCIENCE.  What a great theme to help kids play with polymers of their own making and exploring the world around them.  They sky’s really the limit with the options to make your next kids’ bash smartly done.

I bet if you close your eyes you can already see the decorations, activities, and treats that would fit so nicely into this theme.   Reinforce the love of the outdoors with kids as they nibble on snacks and get hooked by all the fun!

We’re still trying to figure out Instagram, but more and more kids are getting exposed to it, and the idea of taking pictures with real life filters is too fun.  Plus the logo and brand vibe makes for a super glam look to the shindig.

That’s right, Broadway, Baby.  Don’t miss your shot to host an epic kids’ party brought to you by the 18th Century.  The big bonus here is that the party comes with its own soundtrack!  Efficiency rules.

Magic School Bus
Educational content doesn’t always have to be dry and boring.  The Magic School Bus is a beloved source of fantastically engaging stories that help kids learn.  Carry that learning on over to the next party and grab some great ideas on how to make that happen here.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
In case you haven’t noticed, we like the idea of trying to do more with less.  And this theme really hits home for us.  It’s not just about teaching our kids about conservation and sharing, it’s about celebrating it!  I don’t recommend, however, a recycling truck cake . . . ew.  

Dance (less ballet, more EDM please)
I would like a disco ball cake pop, STAT.  While other kids may enjoy a ballet-themed party, throw your kid an all out mini-rave.  An ADORABLE rave.  


9 Ways To Teach Your Child About Giving Back

Donate Clothes and Toys Together

I don’t know about you, but when I first asked my sons to clean out their toy closet to find things to donate to kids who didn’t have many toys, they both looked at me like I was possessed.  After a little thinking and online perusing, I tried to start with MY closet, and involve them in the process.  I sat my kids down and told them that I heard of a great place that collects clothing and other items for families that don’t have anywhere to live.  And I asked them to help me pick out some of my clothes to donate.  I was able to reinforce how it felt to donate my things to people who needed them more than I did, and before I knew it, we had filled up three bags of clothes, toys, and sports equipment.

Collect spare change together and donate it

We keep a spare change jar in our kitchen.  My husband and I throw whatever is in our pockets/wallets/diaper bags/ears in there every Friday night.  Our kids accumulate way less change in a given week, but whatever they’ve got goes into the family pot as well.  At the end of the month, we count up the change and pick a charitable organization to donate it to.  We pick the kids’ schools a lot!

Find A Hands-On Charitable Project to Do Together

Experiential learning really can’t be beat for teaching any topic, including giving back.  Not to mention, there’s the added benefit of getting in some family time.  Find a soup kitchen, or a food pantry, or a children’s hospital to help out at in your area.  

Give Your Child An Allowance

When your child has her own money she will be more understanding of the principles of giving back.  Create a simple chore chart, set a payment amount and time to pay your little employee each week.  Kids help around the house AND learn about money – WIN WIN!

Schedule It

If you are going to make giving back a priority, put it on your family calendar, for all to see.  Whether it’s a trip to donate clothes, or a weekend building a house, if you plan for it, it will come.

Read About Giving Back 

Teach your kids from the words of the experts.  Kindness is a beautiful topic to read about, and we think you might also want to have a tissue or two handy when you’re reading some of these books aloud to your little ones.  There’s something so moving about watching the sweet little face of a little light up while listening to the stories of those who’ve done good.

Buy a Bank That Makes it Easy

Like this one or this one or hey, even this one

We love all of these banks that make giving back super-simple and obvious!  They also make great gifts (see number 8 below)

We can’t help ourselves . . . use GiftAround!

Be sure to involve your child in the charity selection process!  It will make him or her so excited to learn than THEIR party helped contribute to something so important.

Be a Role Model in Giving

Be the change you want to see in the world.  And also, kids are really great copy-cats.  But this is one thing you won’t be shouting “stop copying me” over.  When you donate your clothes, when you contribute your time, when you are mindful in front of your children, you are doing a great service to mankind.  Kindness flows.

9 Amazing Kid-Friendly Party Foods

Chocolate Pretzel Bites
Just a few ingredients and kids will be amazed!  One bite, no mess, and easy to dress up in “party colors”.

Mac and Cheese Cupcakes
Save time scooping out food at the party and consider making these individual serving sized treats instead.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit Cones
We love sneaky ways to get kids to eat more fruit . . . here’s a great party trick for just that.

Vegetable Train
Chugga-chugga-CHEW-CHEW!  I am guilty of being a sucker for turning food items into serving pieces, but this is GOOD.

Celery Butterflies
An adorable take on the usual ants on a log.

Banana Nutella Sushi
Sushi your kids will actually eat!  And ready in no time.

TRIX Crispies
With a key ingredient switch you can make magic happen with a traditional party staple.

Unicorn Dip
Whimsical and delicious!

Birthday Cake Pretzels
Chocolate covered pretzels are always a good bet, and you can switch up the chocolate covering and the candy/sprinkle coating to match your party theme.  

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Party attendees chip-in for fewer, larger gifts that you and your child select. A portion of contributions go to a charity in your child's name.

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