• 6 Tips to Clean Up Your Out-The-Door Act

    Growing up in Southern California, I never understood the concept of spring-cleaning. Spring was usually sunny and in the low 70s, much like the winter that came right before it. But now that I live in the Midwest, I’m at the mercy of the four seasons in all their glory and all their fury.  After the mud, salt, and grime of a tough winter is washed away outside, I understand the strong urge people have to get organized and start fresh inside as well.

    And when I think of getting organized, there is one aspect of my space and life that is in the most disarray: the back door. More specifically, I mean getting out the back door. With a one, three, and four year-old, getting out the door in the morning is by far my biggest challenge of the day.

    I interviewed a slew of moms and dads and begged them to divulge their best tips for getting their crew out. Here are some simple tips and tricks to make leaving the house a cinch!

    1. Set clear expectations ahead of time. For example, during breakfast, remind your child that after she eats you expect her to mom packing daughters backpackwash her hands, gather her lunchbox and backpack, and put on her shoes and coat. If your child meets these expectations, offer descriptive praise to reinforce the good behavior, ie: “Great job following mommy’s directions the first time and getting yourself ready for school!”

    2. Keep all socks and shoes organized by the back door. This way no one has any reason to wander back through the house and be distracted by what they find along the way.

    3. Set an alarm for 10 minutes before you need to be out the door. When the alarm goes off, it will be the alarm—not you—nagging the kids to hurry up.

    4. Plan as much as possible the night before. Check your calendar for the coming day and see what you need to prepare. Do you need to pack lunch? Bring show-n-tell? Check the forecast and set out weather-related items by the back door (i.e. coats and scarves in winter and sunscreen and baseball caps in summer).

    5. Pack the car while the kids get ready. If you can pack the car before it’s time for everyone to leave, you’ll have more free-armmom buckling daughter into car space to move them along. One mom quickly throws everything into the car while her kids are eating breakfast, and finds there are a lot fewer balls in the air when it’s time to make an exit.

    6. Stay with your kids as they walk from house to car. Even if the car is only two feet from your back door or in an attached garage, make sure to lead the way. One dad noted that he had to “micromanage” his two sons’ 10-foot walk from their stoop to their Suburban, lest the rascals get distracted in the nearby plants and mud.

    But most importantly, be consistent. The more you stick to the plan the easier it will become for everyone to adjust over time (including you). Here’s to cleaning up the messiest part of my day! Welcome, glorious spring.

    – Katherine Riolo

  • 6 February Vacation Activities for Kids

    6 February Vacation Activities for KidsFebruary vacation is fast approaching and parents are beginning to prep for a week filled with family fun. Whether you are jetting off to a tropical paradise, taking a road trip to visit family and friends, or tucking in to a relaxing staycation at home, it’s nice to have some tricks up your sleeve that will keep the little ones happy and entertained.

    To ensure that the whole family has an enjoyable and stress-free vacation, stock up on some new games, crafts, and activities that the kids can play with while you travel from point A to point B. Spending some quality time around the house instead? Adding fresh toys to your collection will bring some extra excitement to your regular routine.

    Learning Express Toys has the perfect selection of travel toys and vacation activities for your family. Create a kid-friendly goodie bag to keep in your carry-on, backseat, or closet to surprise the kids if they get restless. Check out these 6 great products available at your neighborhood Learning Express Toy store:

    100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Trip

    100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Trip 

    You’ll never have to hear the words “Are we there yet?” again. Perfect for young travelers, the 100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Trip set comes with 52 activity cards. Each card provides kids with engaging challenges including puzzles, games, coloring pictures, and eye-spy quizzes. Kids can write and draw directly on the cards with the included erasable marker, eliminating the need for extra paper and enabling them to re-use the cards hundreds of times!

    Travel Spirograph Kit

    Travel Spirograph Kit 

    Little artists will love creating fanciful designs on-the-go with the Travel Spirograph studio. Complete with a built-in design ring, work surface, storage compartment, paper, and drawing supplies, this portable set fits easily in any storage compartment or bag. Keep this kit handy for plane rides, train travel, or in the car as you run errands and go on day trips with the kids.

    Fidgety Block

    Fidgety Block 

    Mom and Dad also deserve some distraction while traveling or staying home with the kids during vacation week. Fidgety Block is the perfect toy for any parent that’s feeling stressed or anxious. As the kids try your patience, just click, glide, flip, breathe, roll and spin this six sided block to melt your stress away. If one day you cannot locate your Fidgety Block, look no further than your spouse or kids as they have discovered this can’t put it down toy. You can always find a supply of Fidgety Blocks in array of colors for each member of the family at your neighborhood Learning Express Toy Store.



    Can you Kanoodle? This brain-twisting solitaire game is pocket-sized for traveling convenience. The set includes 12 colorful puzzle pieces and a turntable board that doubles as a carrying case. Kids can create complex 2D puzzles and 3D pyramids based off of 48 challenging designs featured in the included booklet. Children can play on their own or solicit the help of friends and siblings to tackle varying levels of play.

    Scribble N Play

    Boogie Boards 

    The Boogie Board Jot 8.5 and 4.5 are great for writing and doodling at home, in the car or on a plane.  If your child loves their creations, they can save them with the free Jot app for future enjoyment.  The Boogie Board Play N’ Trace and Scribble N’ Play are the perfect occupiers for younger children.  The Play N’ Trace see-through writing surface provides hours of fun tracing pictures, words, or 3D objects.  The Scribble N’ Play features color burst providing brightly colored rainbow pictures and doodles.  These boogie boards are the perfect travel companion for any child.


    Personalized Lap Tray and Clip Case

    Personalized Lap Tray and Clip Case 

    Give your kids the ideal surfaces for drawing, writing, and playing with colorful Lap Trays and Clip Cases from Learning Express Toys. The Lap Tray creates the perfect play area for long road trips and floor-time fun. Place books, snacks, drawing tools, and more in the deep side pockets and spread out your activities and food on the flat, top surface. Don’t have room on your lap? Try a Clip Case! Store papers and accessories inside the case and clip your works of art on the front for a stable drawing canvas. Learning Express Toy Experts will even personalize the trays and cases with your child’s name and fun designs completely free of charge!

    No matter whether you’re lounging pool-side or on the couch, your family will appreciate these fun games and activities.

    Have fun!