Deck the Halls With Personalized Holiday Gifts

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Tis the season to be jolly with Frecklebox. December is just around the corner, and we have a fresh new inventory of personalized holiday gifts and stocking stuffers perfect for the special kid in your life.

Picturesque Placemats

Penguins, gators and polar bears, oh my! Make every meal a holiday with personalized placemats featuring a variety of winter scenes. Go ice skating, sledding, snowboarding or exploring Santa’s village without leaving the dinner table.

Holiday tip: For dessert, serve hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon and cocoa powder.

Crafty Coloring Books

Choose from two festive coloring books, themed around Christmas or Winter Activities, that are full of holiday pictures, games, crossword puzzles and drawing activities. They are perfect for a cold winter day by the fireplace, and every page prominently features the child’s name.

Holiday tip: Color and cut out pictures from the coloring book and use the pages as holiday decorations around the house.

Seasonal Stickers

Frecklebox stickers make great personalized holiday gifts because they are small, colorful and useful in a multitude of craft and decoration projects.

Holiday tip: Instead of buying Christmas cards for teachers and school friends, make your own out of construction paper, markers and seasonal stickers. 

Playful Puzzles

Kids will love putting together these 20-piece puzzles displaying their names in winter pictures, from snowmen and ornaments to snow globes and dreidels.

Holiday tip: Include an 8”x10” picture frame with this gift, and you can frame the finished puzzle in a bedroom or playroom.

Bright Bookmarks

Never lose your place again at storytime; fun Frecklebox bookmarks (five in each set) make ideal personalized holiday gifts for your favorite bookworm.

Holiday tip: Read classic winter tales, such as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” out loud as a family each night and save your place with a personalized bookmark.

Sweet Storybook

This holiday storybook shows how children can demonstrate their love for friends and family through simple actions, such as drawing them a picture or singing them a song.

Holiday tip: Use one of the ideas from the book to show grandparents, teachers or other important people how much you care.

Happy holidays from Frecklebox! We hope our personalized holiday gifts bring your family lots of joy.

Waiting for “Superman” — What’s Your Take?

Waiting for “Superman” Trailer

Documentaries about education don’t often make a big splash at the box office, but the media buzz around the new documentary Waiting for “Superman” has been building steadily over the past few months.

The film, directed by Academy Award-winning director David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), focuses on the United States’ failing public education system by telling the stories of five children who hope to escape public schools by entering a lottery for a few coveted spots in a high-performing charter school. This grueling lottery is seen through the eyes of Daisy, Francisco, Emily, Anthony and Bianca, real children who desperately want a better education than their local public schools can offer.

Waiting for “Superman” has received many rave reviews and has inspired stories in major media outlets, including Time and New York magazines and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“This movie isn’t just a necessity (listen up, do-nothing politicians) — it might change your future,” said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.

Waiting for “Superman” has also received its fair share of criticism, from those who say Guggenheim has depicted an overly simplified version of the problems in our country’s education system—offering privately managed charter schools as the magic solution to replace failing public schools, without considering other factors such as school funding, poverty, race, teacher retention or problems associated with school privatization and the over-reliance on test scores.

In her piece “The Myth of Charter Schools” in The New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch pointed to statistics from a national study of charter schools: “Only one in five charter schools is able to get the ‘amazing results’ that it celebrates…17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the message of Waiting for “Superman,” it has brought attention to the need to discuss and find solutions to problems within our education system for the sake of our children.

Have you seen the film yet, or are you planning to?

Easy Thanksgiving Recipes Kids Can Make

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If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, you probably have a to-do list a mile long with grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking. Cross off a few items on your list by letting your kids help with the cooking. They will probably like being involved in the preparation of the big holiday meal, and you will be free to focus on the turkey.

These easy Thanksgiving recipes are simple enough for kids to prepare (with a little adult supervision) and scrumptious enough for everyone to enjoy.

Green Bean Casserole

This classic side dish combines delicious creamy and crunchy flavors, and it’s a snap for kids to prepare.

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 cups cooked green beans (steamed in the microwave is a shortcut)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ¼ cups French-fried onions
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Sprinkles of salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

1.     Stir the soup, green beans, milk, spices and half of the onions together in a casserole dish.

2.     Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then stir and sprinkle with cheddar and the remaining onions. Bake for 5 more minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Cornbread

Who knew making cornbread from scratch was so easy? The only challenging part is getting it to the table without it being eaten straight out of the pan!

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk

1.     Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

2.     Add oil, egg and milk and mix until just blended.

3.     Pour into a greased 8-inch square pan and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve with butter, honey and jam.

Whole Cranberry Sauce

Even kids who don’t like canned cranberry sauce will have a hard time resisting this deliciously simple recipe.

  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

1.     Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2.     Bring to a boil and cook until berries pop.

“I’m Thankful For…” Thanksgiving Activities

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Thanksgiving will be here next week, and while preparing for the holiday, it’s a good opportunity to encourage children to take time and reflect on all the people and things for which they are thankful, from their friends and teachers to pumpkin pie and picture books.

Try one of these fun and creative “I’m Thankful For…” Thanksgiving activities with your kids to get in the holiday spirit.

Write a Poem

Poetry can be the perfect medium for expressing gratitude; it is flexible, imaginative and has the ability to be funny, touching, playful or silly (or a combination of all of the above).

  • Start off by getting inspired by checking out these poetry games and activities.
  • In a Frecklebox journal, brainstorm all the different people for whom you are thankful—your parents, siblings, best friends, teachers and coaches. Now write down all the places and things that come to mind when you think of being thankful. Your list can be a mix of anything that is important to you – playing basketball, fall leaves, blue skies, trips to the library, family vacations.
  • Read over all the words you’ve written down in your journal and use some or all of them to write a poem about why you are thankful. Don’t worry about rhyming if you don’t want to – just have fun with it and express how you feel.

“I’m Thankful For…” Placemat

If you believe a picture is worth 1,000 words, take on a visual project and create an placemat collage for Thanksgiving. Take out a large sheet of construction paper, scissors, a glue stick and a stack of magazines and photos you don’t mind cutting up. Think about why you are grateful, and cut out pictures that represent these people and things. Glue them to the construction paper in a collage and laminate using clear contact paper. Use your placemat while you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.

Show Your Thanks

Write thank-you cards, draw pictures or bake cookies for the people who have made a difference in your life this year. A simple “thank you” will mean the world to them.

What are your favorite family Thanksgiving activities? Share in the comments!

Children’s Books About Adoption for National Adoption Month

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November is National Adoption Month focusing on a different theme every year to raise awareness about the need for adoptive families in the United States. 2010’s theme is “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent” and aims to recruit and retain parents for the 115,000 foster children and youth who are waiting for adoptive families.

Families come in all different shapes, sizes and varieties, and November is a good opportunity to teach your children about adoption (no matter what kind of family you have).

Over a year ago, we were inspired here at Frecklebox by some of our customers who had just adpoted a child and wanted a personalized book to read to her. We wrote the book We Chose You,” to explain to the child how fortunate the parents were to have found her. There are several outstanding children’s books about adoption, here are some that show a few of the diverse ways a loving family can be formed.

National Adoption Month Reading List

1. Family Day: Celebrating Ethan’s Adoption Anniversary by Christine Mitchell

Five-year-old Ethan is celebrating the first anniversary of his adoption by his foster family. As the day progresses, he looks through his “lifebook” and thinks about his birth family and happily observes the special occasion with his adoptive family.

2. The Family Book by Todd Parr

Families can be big, small, messy or clean. Some families include stepmoms, stepdads and stepkids; others have two moms or two dads or one parent, and still others adopt children. The Family Book is a fun, playful take on all different types of families.

3. Over the Moon: An Adoption Story by Karen Katz

Based on the true story of the author and her husband adopting their daughter, Lena, from Central America, Over the Moon tells the joyful story of international adoption with beautiful lines such as: “You grew like a flower in another lady’s tummy until you were born. The lady couldn’t take care of you so Mommy and Daddy came to adopt you and bring you home.”

4. Three Names of Me by Mary Cummings

Ada, a Chinese-American girl, tells the story of why she has three names: one close to her heart given by her mother, one used when she lived in an orphanage and one given to her by her adoptive parents. Three Names of Me honestly captures Ada’s feelings about her past and present.

5. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

A little girl begs her parents again and again to tell the story of the night they got on a plane to adopt her and bring her home: “Tell me again about how you would adopt me and be my parents… Tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms…” It is a humorous, whimsical story full of love and emotion.

6. Rosie’s Family: An Adoption Story by Lori Rosove

Rosie is a beagle who has been adopted by a family of schnauzers. She notices she doesn’t look like the other members of her family and asks questions that adopted children may have as well. It’s a sweet, relatable story with colorful pictures and a helpful discussion guide at the end for parents.

7. Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Adopted and Foster Children by Geraldine Blomquist

This story gracefully addresses some of the tough emotions and themes associated with foster care and adoption. Zachary is a kitten who is taken from his mother when she can’t care for him, then enters foster care and is eventually adopted by a loving family of geese. Zachary experiences a range of emotions, from confusion, sadness, fear and anger, until he finds happiness with his adopted family.

Have you read any children’s books about adoption with your family? Which would you recommend to other parents?