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The little book with BIG resources!

No-Toy Holiday Gift Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Psssst! Look {Inside} for a FUN GIVEAWAY!

We’re now *officially* less than 75 days away from Christmas 2017 (not that we’re counting or anything!) and our team here at iFamilyKC is excited to share some wonderful ideas, tips, and tricks for your family over the next few months. To kick things off, we’ve got some no-toy holiday gift ideas to keep the magic of the holidays alive even after the New Year. And, BONUS, we’ve got a giveaway RIGHT in this post! Take a look…

holiday gift ideas

No-Toy Holiday Gift Ideas Your Kids Will Love

There was a time in my life when I thought my family might want to explore living in a larger house. Why?! Simply put, we thought we needed more space. Life was feeling a little crowded and it wasn’t until we realized we just have too much stuff that we made the decision that more square footage wasn’t going to solve the problem in the long run – it would just make it worse with time. So we went on a mission (a long road that we’re still on, to be honest) to simplify life and get rid of all the excess stuff. Now that the holidays are approaching, we’re exploring new ideas for holiday gift giving that don’t involve toys.

We’ve got a few go-to ideas that we typically fall back on but were ready for some fresh concepts for Christmas 2017. So, we took to our brand new Community Group on Facebook (shameless plug– have you joined the iFamilyKC Kansas City parent group yet?!) to ask you for your ideas on no-toy gifts you can give the kiddos (or adults!) in your life this year. Here are some of our favorites:

#1 Books

It’s always a good time for learning and I am a huge fan of gifting books for special occasions (and normally give them for kid’s birthdays, too). Reading provides children with the opportunity to use their imagination and dive deep into other worlds.

“A reader lives a thousand lifetimes…” -George R.R. Martin 

With hundreds of thousands of different titles to select from, the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to gifting stories for the holidays. If the special person in your life has a Kindle, tablet, or other e-reader, you could give them a gift card to purchase books onto their device. Depending on the age and reading level of your recipient, a book series can provide hours and hours of entertainment.

Some of my suggestions include:

  • Classic Children’s Books (all ages)
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama Books (toddler)
  • Pete The Cat Books (preschool)
  • Ivy & Bean Books (school aged)
  • Judy Moody Books (school aged)
  • Harry Potter Series (preteen)

#2 Experience Gifts {We’ve Got a GIVEAWAY!}

Over the last few years, my family has become really big into giving experiences as gifts (mostly to each other) and, in addition to being incredibly fun for both the giver and the receiver, they also help to bring your family closer together in ways that you might not expect (#FamilyBonding).

Each year for my daughter’s birthday, we gift her a membership to somewhere in the Kansas City area and, because KC is so full of amazing options for families, it’s awarded us with the chance to check out some fun spots across the metro over the years. We’ve done memberships to the zoo, the local botanical gardens, and to Union Station in the past and each has given us the chance to spend time together as a family – it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Many places that you can get memberships to here in the greater KC area offer tax deductions along with your purchase so you can consider that a little gift to yourself, too.

{Bonus!} Giveaway! 

We want to give YOU a head start on your gift giving this year and have a family four pack of tickets to the newly remodeled Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium ($28 Value!) AND a family four pack of tickets to Science City ($32 Value!) both at Union Station in downtown Kansas City.

Want to get in on the action?!

We’ll randomly select TWO winners (one getting Science City tickets and the other getting Planetarium tickets) on Wednesday, October 25th!

#3 Gift Cards

I’ll admit, until recently, I’d never been big into gift cards for the holidays but, now that my daughter is getting older, I am starting to see the value in all that they provide. Charlotte, who is six, absolutely LOVES shopping at the little boutique jewelry (and hair accessory, hat, makeup, toy, etc) shop in the mall. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the one I’m talking about, it’s been around since most of us were kids. Ever since I took Charlotte to get her ears pierced over the summer, she’s been obsessed with going into the store. I can understand why, it’s every little girl’s dream to have fun costume jewelry and adorable accessories all in one place.

The joy she gets in shopping for earrings, “makeup” (relax, it’s just lip gloss…we’re not there yet), and other little things that the kids enjoy these days is really special. When you give a child a gift card, you’re giving them the freedom to explore, to discover what they really enjoy, and the entertainment of shopping.

Here are a few places I suggest for gift cards:

  • Claires (they often have ‘Buy 3 Get 3 FREE’ sales so your gift card can go further.)
  • Five Below (with everything in the store UNDER $5, a little bit can go a long way.)
  • The bookstore (See #1 for more details)

#4 Subscriptions

One of the moms on our Community Group offered up a suggestion that I hadn’t thought of before. As adults, many of us enjoy subscription boxes that come once a month or once a quarter. Why not give that as a gift for the kids?! There are several great options for subscription services specifically designed with children in mind and many of them give you the flexibility of deciding how frequently you want to send the boxes (read: how much you’re willing to budget for).

We found some options that you might be interested in exploring as gift for this year (please note that we have not used these ourselves and, as such, do not provide our endorsement for any of the following) online:

  • Little Passports
  • Kiwi Crate
  • Doodle Crate
  • SproutKin

#5 A “Yes” Day

I recently read an article that discussed how utterly exhausted (and beyond happy) actress Jennifer Garner was after successfully completing a “yes day” with her kids. It’s a concept I’ve never heard of but is apparently based on the book with the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

The idea is simple, spend a day with your kids and let them take the reins in planning what they want to do. You set limits (budget, time, etc) and rules for the day and then allow your kids to call the shots. If it sounds as exciting to you as it does to me, check out the book from your local Mid-Continent Public Library branch and consider giving it to your child this Christmas.

We’ll have an in depth listing of resources available to your family this season in our Annual Holiday Guide. You can pick a copy up starting November 1st in any of our 1,000 drop spots across the metro area or access it online. Also, be sure to join the discussion on the iFamilyKC Kansas City Parent Community Group on Facebook!

From iFamily to Yours,


3 Mistakes Parents Make with Technology

Happy Friday (and St. Patrick’s Day) Kansas City! Our Tech expert, Burton Kelso is back with another tech savvy post, helping parents to fix some mistakes we tend to make with our kiddos and technology. So, if you feel overwhelmed by technology and kids, take some advice from Mr. Kelso to get the family back on track. Take a look…

3 Mistakes Parents Make with Technology

3 Mistakes Parents Make with Technology


Everywhere you look, kids are spending more time with their technology devices. While technology has allowed us to access vast amounts of information and has become a great source of entertainment, it has become the number one source of conflict between parents and their children at home. The problem with technology is it doesn’t turn itself off. Also, many parents are guilty of using technology as a babysitter. I get it. It’s easier to give your kid some form of electronic simulation. It keeps them distracted and allows you to ‘adult’. You get stuff done if they are engaged in tech and it helps them become more tech saavy … right? Wrong! Setting limits on bad behaviors is a very important part of being a good parent. Technology is good, but it will never replace that parent to kid time they need. Setting limits on technology will make you the bad parent, but it is key to preventing problems with technology use in your home. So what mistakes are you making? Here is a list of the most common mistakes parents make and how to fix them.


#1 Failure to Set Limits on Technology Usage.

How much time you allow them to spend with their tech is up to you, but for the love of God don’t allow them to use it all day everyday. Two hours a day everyday is the suggested amount, but you don’t have to stick with that.  Just set limits on how much screen time they have daily. Screen time includes TV, video games, iPods.  If your kids spend too much time in front of a screen, it can lead to obesity, sleep problems, and behavior problems.  Be sure to give your kids the freedom to decide how they will spend their time away from the screen. I suggest giving them some leeway for times like rainy days, cold weather, and long car rides, rather than having rigid, all-or-nothing schedule, but always remember, having no rules will lead to big problems down the road.

#2 Not Having Enough Family Activities without Technology.

Families are spending more time in front of their screens. Immediately posting photos to social media, logging on to your favorite streaming service to watch movies, the list goes on. Be sure to create activities that don’t involve a screen. So what do you do?  Give them ideas for what to do instead. Also, it would be a good idea for your family to plan a day of unplugging from technology or having a No Tech zone in certain areas of your home such as the dining room. Plan a game night for your family. Show your kids how they should experience the world by planning non tech family activities.


#3 Parents are also Tech Addicts  

Parents, you have to set the example with your technology use. Kids will mimic your actions. If they see you using technology on a consistent basis, they will think it’s ok for them to do it too. When you stop and realize that most adults spend more than seven hours a day interacting with some form of technology, it’s not hard to imagine why your kids are doing it too. Just like you set limits with your kids, you need to learn to set limits with yourself. You can wait to send that work e-mail. With most shows on being accessible from a streaming service, you don’t have worry about missing your favorite show. Your kids need you to pay attention to them, not to the device in your hand.


The bottom line is you must control technology or technology will control your kids. Too much technology not healthy for any young person. Find the right balance for technology in your home and eliminate tech addiction in your kid’s future.


Burton Kelso is the Owner and Chief Technology Expert at Integral, an on-site and remote technology repair company for consumers and businesses. He regularly appears as a guest tech correspondent on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS on shows such as Better Kansas City, Kansas City Live, and the FOX 4 morning show, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets. He can be reached at 888-256-0829 or email at burton@integralcomputerconsultants.com


Budget Friendly Eating

Healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank

 One of the most important parts of being a parent is the lessons we share with our children. Learning how to eat healthy on a budget is an incredibly valuable tool that our little ones will carry with them for the rest of their lives. So much of our health, energy, and overall lives are directly connected to the foods that we put in our body and sometimes it can feel overwhelming trying to find the best foods without breaking the bank.

When my husband and I were newlyweds we were fresh out of college, new to the area, and just starting out. Neither of us really put much thought into what kinds of foods we were eating and so we ate what was cheap and easy. It wasn’t until we decided to have a family of our own that we really started putting a lot of thought into our meals. After my daughter was born in 2011, something clicked. I couldn’t tell you what it was or exactly when it happened but I realized that everything I do impacts myself, my family, and my community. I started looking into the foods we were eating, where they came from, and what kind of impact my choice in where to shop was having on my corner of the world.

I once heard that the average grocery store produce travels more than a thousand miles  before it ever makes it to your plate. With that knowledge in hand, I began comparing the foods available for purchase at the local big name grocery stores to that found at the local Farmer’s Market and I made a shocking discovery. Buying local translates to major savings and your dollar really does go further when you take out the need for costly overhead and travel expenses. Fresh peppers that would cost $1 a piece from a grocer would cost half that or less buying directly from the farmer who grows it. Shopping at the farmer’s market just made a lot more sense to me.

With warmer weather rapidly approaching the local farmers will be heading out to City Market to share some of their incredible produce with you. This is one of my favorite times of year not because I just love the heat (I don’t) but because the upcoming weather is more conducive for fresh, healthy produce and the opportunity to take my daughter to meet the farmers who grow our food. The City Market has great guidelines for their farmers (the local ones are always in the center, under the green awnings). You can find more information about that on their website.

Mom Squad member Holli Ann is the author or It’s An Ordinary Blog. You can stay up to date on all of her posts by following her blog on Facebook.

Frugal and Convenient Recipe

By Keri Nichol


Our schedule is so chaotic sometimes that finding time to make a meal is a real chore. Not to mention, the fact that you want it to be something more than a can of cold ravioli’s. I have been trying to get into making foods up in advance and freezing them for convenient foods that we will love and will fill our bellies.

For us, though, the trick is making foods that we all like and that are cheap to make. It’s hard enough to stay on a food budget day to day, let alone trying to plan ahead. However, I found one recipe that seems to be a hit in our family: breakfast burritos.

We always have potatoes and eggs. And once every month or two one of the local grocery stores will have a four day breakfast sale where you can get rolls of sausage for $.99 and the same with shredded cheese. So, I wait for these sales and then buy them up. I will find sales on 12 inch tortilla and buy what’s on sale also. I have used plain whites, wheat and even Chipotle.

So when my potatoes start to get soft and I know I need to get them used up I will slice them all up real small. I normally leave the peeling on because my hands cramp from peeling them and besides that skin is supposed to be healthy, right. I fry up the sausage and then pull the crumbles out and put them on a plate. I leave the grease from the sausage to cook the potatoes in. I then add the potatoes to the pan and also a diced onion. I slowly fry the potatoes until they are very soft and mushy. This usually takes a while and is the key in a good burrito. Then I make a well in the middle of the pan, pushing the potatoes to the edges. I whisk up my eggs and pour them into the well. Make sure the heat is very low at this point. I don’t mix the potatoes in with the raw egg. I wait until the eggs are mostly cooked stirring them in the well and then I combine them with the potatoes. When the egg is thoroughly cooked I add the sausage back in and also some cheese and mix well. Then I put large spoonful of the mix into a tortilla and wrap it up. I like to wrap the tortilla in some aluminum foil. This way I can pull them straight out of a freezer bag and pop them into the oven. Plus it helps hold them together.

In my last batch I used 5 lbs. of potatoes, one whole onion, 5 sausage patties (leftovers), 1 lb. roll of sausage, 8 oz. shredded mild cheddar cheese and 8 large eggs. The best part of this idea is that you use what you have. You can change the type of meats and cheeses you use to suit what you have, what’s on sale or what’s been left over in the frig that week. This is a way to reuse foods and use them up without letting them go bad but still making a great meal. The last batch that I made – made 19 big burritos. We have had these for a fast breakfast, lunch and even a dinner on the go. The kids usually split one since they are so filling.