Gift Ideas

My 50 Favorite Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

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With three kids five and under to play Easter bunny with this year, I am all for coming up with ways to fill their Easter baskets without excessive amounts of candy, sugar-coated treats, or the ever-so-processed Peeps. I get the novelty of each of these items, but I know I can also jack my kids up about Easter without needing tons of added sugar.

I recognize that particularly with my oldest, she is more aware of the outside world and all the sugar that comes with it. As kids get older, it is normal for boxes of raisins to not be as exciting as well, just about anything that is branded for Easter. So my goal here is not to give the impression that all candy is bad or should be entirely avoided. This can create a bigger problem with preoccupation for such sweets and treats as highlighted in my past post, How to Handle Halloween Candy here.

My goal here is to share some ideas that are more creative than candy alone. I want to help spur on some fun, engaging, enjoyable alternatives to candy so that you can add them to whichever other items you and your family choose to include in Easter baskets.

For my family, we usually opt to add in a few candy items that I know my girls are into or would find fun. These are super exciting the day of and then quickly get forgotten about in the pantry. But the perception is that they are a part of the holiday - not forbidden but also not on the forefront.

I hope this post will help you and your family to find a balance that fits for you!

 
candy free Easter Basket Ideas.png
 

 

50 of My Favorite Non-Candy Easter Basket Filler Ideas

In this post, I share some non-candy Easter basket fillers that are easily available, cost effective, age appropriate, and items you would actually want lingering around the house from Spring through Summer.

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas: To Eat

Stock up on some fun packaged snacks that you maybe don’t otherwise buy each week. Add a few in for some fun favorites!

  1. Packaged Snacks

  2. Applesauce pouches

  3. Carrot-shaped cellophane bags with Annie's Homegrown “Easter bunny” crackers

  4. Freeze-Dried Fruit

  5. Fruit Snacks

  6. Dried fruit

  7. Fruit Leathers

  8. Nourish Snack Bags

  9. Good 2 Grow Apple Juice with fun topper

  10. Vitamins

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas: To Eat With

I am all for using holidays to help restock everyday essentials, so this is a great time to buy new or replace old items used to eat and drink with!

  1. New plates or colorful dishes

  2. Reusable bags (these fit inside of larger plastic Easter Eggs too!) Use discount code VEGGIESVIRTUE15 for 15% off any sized Bumkins order

  3. Dylbug personalized plates Use discount code VEGGIESANDVIRTUE for 10% off

  4. Lunchbox Love lunchbox notes for kids

  5. Fun food picks or other novelty items

  6. Kid-safe knives

  7. A new water bottle

  8. New smoothie cups for spring with silicone straws

  9. Cookie cutters

  10. Kid-sized Popsicle Molds

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas: To Create With

  1. Playdough Kits

  2. Kid's Kitchen Tools

  3. Educational Items, like these fun “sprinkle letters”

  4. Kwik Paint Sticks

  5. Do-a-Dot

  6. Garden and Sand Tools

  7. Kinetic Sand

  8. New Markers

  9. Activity Books

  10. Sidewalk Chalk (how cute are these and these?)

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas: To Wear

  1. Bibs Use discount code VEGGIES10 for 10% off smocks for infants and bigger kids

  2. Kid's Cooking Apron

  3. Bunny apron

  4. Bunny PJs

  5. Sandals or Pool Sandals

  6. Hoodie swim towel

  7. Personalized beach towel

  8. Sunglasses

  9. Hair accessories (headbands, bows, clips, hair ties, or hats)

  10. Swim goggles

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas: To Play With

  1. Bubbles

  2. Bath Toys or Foam Letters

  3. Pool Toys

  4. Wind-up Toys

  5. Sticker Books

  6. Activity Books

  7. Water beads

  8. Water balloons

  9. Board books

  10. Kite

 


Want something to help celebrate the true reason for Easter?

"He told them, 'This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'"  Luke 24:46-48

My Favorite Things, moms edition

How many of you currently have a husband saying, "Honey, my mom wants to know what you want for Christmas?" Or maybe if your husband is a bit more of a planner than the ordering-from-Amazon on December 22nd type, he is asking for ideas of what to give you himself!

Either way, I know this can be a tough question for us moms to give actual, concrete answers to. That's why I have created this post.

 
 

 

Even though it is humbling to be the recipient of a gift, I think it also creates a bit of angst among us moms in this season we are in of constantly giving. We may secretly wish for a massage gift card to use any and every day of 2018, but since I have yet to find a massage studio that also offers childcare, we all are probably better off asking for some other realistic ideas.

On the flip side, we are likely friends with a fellow mom friend who has this same "problem" as us and would never straight say what she wants to ask Santa for.

So whether it is you who need ideas or a friend/family member you want to surprise with an unexpected gift, here you have it.

 

My Favorite Things for Moms list of 2017.

Complete with some of the items I have fell in love with over the past year plus some of the products I would love to receive in the upcoming year, here are a few of My Favorite Things for you, for me, and for Mama Bears everywhere.

You could ask for any of these yourself, use this list to come up with the perfect gift idea for a friend, or consider gifting one of these to a teacher, coworker, or neighbor. Whichever way you use this, I hope these ideas will spur on generous giving and grateful hearts for you and fellow moms.

 

My Favorite Things for Moms

Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. You are not charged any more for using these; however, a small commission from each sale helps support Veggies & Virtue continue its mission to serve families like yours. For more on my disclosure and privacy policies, please see my legal page.

 

A Good Water Bottle

It is hard to believe that I was still rocking one of those massive 32 ounce water bottles they give you in your postpartum birth suite up until Siggi's sent me a new water bottle, like this one. Now, I daily find myself drinking even more water than I was with the breast-feeding mammoth hydration machine I toted around before. Plus, it stays consistently cold (kind of like my coffee!).

 

Coffee Tumbler

It seems like everyone now has heard of YETI. If you haven't gotten on this bandwagon yet though, now may be your chance to do so.

Enter 2018 as a year with hot coffee, Mama!

I know it seemed impossible to achieve this as a mom, but coffee cups like this one by YETI or other discounted equivalents like these have transformed that morning cup of joe for many of us mom. What I love too if the tops like these that come with a straw so you can also ice your coffee and keep a straw in it during the summer (or 10 months out of the year here in Houston).

 

Wine Glasses

The chance to enjoy a glass of wine doesn't happen on a whim for many moms, but ever since seeing these Goverre wine glasses on Shark Tank I have felt like they are the perfect solution for many moms. Whether it is enjoying a glass at a holiday party or sitting on the floor and playing with your little's new train set on the night of Christmas, this spill-prook wine glass is such a great gift for the mom you don't know what to get. While it isn't officially a "leak proof" sippy cup for moms, it can drastically cut down the number of wine glasses that break or spills that happen as part of our classiest mom moments.

 

Wine Club Membership

This past September, my husband and I had the joy of finally visiting the Napa wine country for a dear friend's wedding. While there, we decided to finally participate in our first wine club membership. While this is something we have long argued as "unnecessary," it has become something that we now deeply enjoy and appreciate for date night ins. This would be such a thoughtful and generous gift to the women who enjoys a good glass of wine but may not otherwise justified buying it for herself. Also for anyone who may be a bit behind on shopping for Christmas gifts, this is one you still have time to easily set up and send a "voucher" for as having ordered on their behalf!

Three of our favorite wine clubs, include:

     

    Grocery Pads and Meal Planners

    I know I am not the only mom who misplaces my grocery list or forgot to include an item on it until after I already left the store. I also know that I am among the many moms who are trying to simplify this daily to do of figuring out what we feed out families. That's why I met my need and the needs spoken by many fellow moms with my grocery list and meal planning tear off pad. At $10, this pad gives you six months worth of pre-filled grocery lists on one side and meal planning templates on the other. That works out to be less than $0.50 per week to organize and streamline one area of mom life I know we all need a little hand with.

    I also have a Meal Planning Playbook for any mom who wants to take control of their meal planning in 2018. It walks you through a five step process to "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success." You can buy the Meal Planning Playbook here.

     

    Want to get free access to my tips and templates for "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success?" Sign up for my once-weekly newsletter here.

     

    Vital Choice

    Being a native Washingtonian, I have loved salmon for as long as I can remember. Up until this past October though, the only way I knew to get or gift fresh, local salmon was by calling one of the fisheries at Pike Place Market and shipping it. When I was at the Food & Nutrition Expo in Chicago this past Fall, I discovered a new seafood company from my home state that had me with the first bite.

    Anyone who has followed me on Instagram knows how much smoked salmon we go through in our home. I tend to buy a cost-effective and convenient one from Costco, which meets our needs on a week to week basis. But when it comes to the gifts to give and receive that get me really excited? Vital Choice takes the cake…or rather is a reel catch!

    That's why this Vital Choice Smoked Salmon Sampler is on my list. Not only is it delivering all the nutrition a foodie mom could ask for, but it gives options and variety that is perfect to put out for holiday hosting that I know even my kids will eat. I ordered the Vital Choice Vital Starter Box to send my 93-year old grandmother this Christmas. She lives alone, so these individual portions are perfect for her to pull out and enjoy! My husband and I are also going to enjoy the Vital Choice Vital Starter Box for "Date Nights In" in the coming year. It is cheaper than a date night out and yet we can still enjoy a nice dinner together...after we get the kids down.

     

     
     

    Gift certificates to Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, One Potato Box, Home Chef, or Fish Fixe

    You know what these are? Permission to take a week off. You all know I am pretty committed to meal planning and prep (as I share in my Meal Planning Playbook), but even I get burnt out or am straight unable to some weeks. That's why this past year I have wished I had given myself permission to just skip.

    For 2018, I am! On the weeks we are returning home late on a Sunday night or when I have been at home with sick kids and just need to reprioritize where my time and energy is invested, I would LOVE permission to pass on the meal planning and prep by having one of these services do (and deliver!) it all for me.

    • Hello Fresh
    • Blue Apron
    • One Potato Box
    • Home Chef
    • Fish Fixe
     

    Lettering Journals

    I understand that adult coloring books have been out for several years now and changing the way that we as adults find little pockets of stress relief. They're a popular stocking stuffer or easy gift idea, which is precisely why I know a lot of women who will LOVE these lettering journals by my dear friend Alex over at Prairie Letter Shop. For as long as I have known Alex, she has had that hand writing that you just drool over. Now, she combines her giftedness in lettering with her mastery of teaching to show anyone and everyone the stress relief, joy, and leisure of hand lettering. She has so many resources available, including her very popular Daily Lettering Journal, Second Edition and Daily Lettering Journal, Scripture Edition (which I had the honor to contribute to!). Anything that Alex offers I know will become an outlet for moms to unwind and enjoy.

     

    Comfy Mom Tees

    I asked y'all over on my Instagram what small businesses you loved comfy mom tees from and here were a list of 10 faves:

    1. Banky Girl Creations (@bankygirlcreations)
    2. Walk in love (@walkinlove)
    3. Crew and Co. (@crewandco)
    4. Jane.com
    5. Audience of One Apparel (@ao1apparel)
    6. Living on the Veg Tees (@living_on_the_veg_tees)
    7. Farm Fresh Designs (@farmfreshdesignsok)
    8. Declan and Crew (@declanandcrew)
    9. The BE Brand (@thebebrand)
    10. The BB Tee (@thebbtee)
     

    Little Dumpling Apron Set

    I admit, I will probably be asking for one of these Little Dumpling Apron sets for Mother's Day 2018, so I am going to go ahead and throw these out there for you now. I adore the high-quality aprons and eye-catching designs of these matching mother-child apron sets. So whether you have a lot of holiday baking you already need this for, or you plan to get inspired to have your kids in the kitchen more for the upcoming year, these are by far the most darling and endearing way to go about it.

     

    Want to get in on my free newsletter in 2018? Join us!

     

    Letterfolk Boards

    I don't know if anyone else out there is dying for a girls weekend away at the Silos as much as my girlfriend mamas and I do, but it just sounds so fun. Gawking over Joanna Gaines and anything and everything she creates, designs, and inspires. One of the small businesses that I know has made an appearance in Waco before is that of Letterfolk boards. You all may also recognize these from my "#whatIbuyandwhy" posts, which is just one of a million fun ways to use them! Be it for a pregnant mom friend who wants to announce how far along she is week by week, the mom with a wee-one sharing the month by month pics, or a mom just documenting funny quotes for motherhood, these are a gift I think most any would enjoy finding a use for.,

     

    Books

    Between an Audible subscription, Kindle edition, or book in print, there are so many ways to gift the perfect gift or cookbook for the coming year! I personally have asked for Emily Ley's A Simplified Life and Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie (affiliate links) as inspirational books. Professionally, I hope to read Rising Strong and The Challenger Sale in 2018.

     

    iRobot Vacuum

    I can't help it. My husband and I gave this roomba to each other last year and yes, it indeed became one of my favorite things in 2017. The ability to have the vaccum run itself at any and every time of day has been AMAZING. So while it is a big investment, it can be an amazing gift that any busy mom (aka ALL OF US!) could likely use and appreciate.

     

    Custom Silhouettes

    I have prepped my husband for years that as soon as our family is "complete," I want custom silhouettes of each of my kids. There is something so magical, timeless, and priceless about the work that Le Papier Studio does to capture these silhouettes of children, I truly can't think of anything more wonderful than these as a gift for any mom. What I am particularly swooning over is our family ornament each year being these ones. How memorable would it be to have a tree 20 years from now covered with these keepsake ornaments on it from your family's most precious memories?

     

    Plus 10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Mom

    1. Exercise socks (I am obsessed with these for running)
    2. Chocolate (that's JUST for mom, like BarkThins or Justin's PB cups!)
    3. New undies (yes, I said it but I will skip linking any)
    4. A new set of frames (geek alert since this is my first year in my glasses!)
    5. Reflective gear for working out (since we often work out in the wee hours)
    6. BAMR bands (my FAVORITE work out head bands)
    7. Planner (I asked for this one)
    8. Bath bombs (my hubs sometimes gets these for me at airports after business trips - WIN!)
    9. Candles (these are made in Texas and heavenly)
    10. Gift cards for mani/pedi, new makeup, a massage (slash cash for a babysitter when you go!)
     

    Ready to start 2018 on a good foot? Get the info you need as the nutritional gatekeeper in your home with front row access to everything Veggies & Virtue offers. Register now for my newsletter!

     

    Merry Christmas!

    While these are far from an end all, be all list, but I hope it helped you to think of a few last minute ideas that were within a range of price points and could appeal to a lot of different people. Whichever items you ask for or give, I hope that you and those you love have a very, Merry Christmas!

     

    Elf on the Shelf Ideas

    Is it not crazy that Christmas is almost here?

    Whether you have an Advent calendar up or an Elf hidden on a shelf, chances are that your kids have found some way to start the grand 25 day countdown until Christmas.

    So even though we chose not to do Elf on the Shelf in our house this year, we had so much fun with ours last year that I thought I would share a month in review here.

    Scroll through the gallery below for the full month of the elf-inspired scenes we set up... all in and around food, of course!

    Each image also has a clickable link to the image and caption (as shared on Instagram last year) if you are interested.

     

    Whatever fills up your December days, I hope you may find joy in the simple yet sweet memories built with those you love the most!

    My Favorite Things List 2017

    I get it. I am not Oprah. But I absolutely love this time of year and how it has led me to find many of my favorite products for my kids. 

    From the first five items I ever shared on a Christmas wishlist (see 2015 wishlist here) to the gifts that filled my wish list last year (see 2016 wishlist here), I am now a proud owner of all ten of these items. They were the items I really, truly wanted for feeding my own family over the past two years as a new mom and items I am glad to have shared with each of you.

    This past year has opened up a lot of new opportunities though. I enter into 2018 humbled and grateful to not only have gotten to officially launch Veggies & Virtue LLC in 2017, but also to look back and see how much this platform has grown in the past 12 months.

    Beyond the number of you who now follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or my weekly newsletter, what means the most to me is how many of you have come to trust me.

    I want you to know that I don't take this lightly.

    As a mom, there is nothing I protect more than my children's well being. With this, comes the discernment to know when, where, and on what to invest our family's time, money, and energy. I weigh these decisions heavily myself in hopes that it will serve both my children and family well - not just now in these foundational years, but also in all the years to come.

    And I know you do too.

    That's why as a mom and pediatric dietitian, I make it a priority to scrutinize the products I recommend on Veggies & Virtue. I love sharing those that I see a natural place for in achieving,

    "Less Meal Time Stress. More Feeding Success."

    I also get pretty darn giddy imagining how these items may make their way into your homes and lives in the upcoming year. I get excited knowing the feeding wins I have seen in our home personally as well as with my clients professionally when using items like those I share below.

    So as one small business owner honored to support so many others with theirs, may you find comfort in knowing a few of Veggies & Virtue's Favorite Things.

    Use these as Christmas gift ideas or a little added inspiration for how to get your family on track with feeding in the coming year. In doing so, know:

    My small business and each of those below are so grateful for your trust and support.

     
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    Veggies & Virtue: My Favorite Things List 2017

    I have included three options under each of the following categories. While there are so many amazing products out there to try, these are my top three (in no particular order).

    Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. You are not charged any more for using these; however, a small commission from each sale helps support Veggies & Virtue continue its mission to serve families like yours. For more on my disclosure and privacy policies, please see my legal page.

     

    Subscriptions

    Veggie Buds Club  : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

    Veggie Buds Club : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

    Nomster Chef  : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

    Nomster Chef : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

    Z Dough  : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

    Z Dough : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

     

    Toddler Stools & Chairs

     

    Feeding Tools

    Meals with Milton  : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Meals with Milton : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Lunchbox Love Notes  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

    Lunchbox Love Notes : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

     

    Kitchen Tools

    Foost Kid-Safe Knives  : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

    Foost Kid-Safe Knives : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

    Mabel's Labels  : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

    Mabel's Labels : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

     

    Lunchboxes

    Yumbox  : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

    Yumbox : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

    OmieBox  : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

    OmieBox : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

    Dishware

    ezpz  : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

    ezpz : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

    Dylbug  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

    Dylbug : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

    Clothing

    Bapron  : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Bapron : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Little Dumpling Apron  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

    Little Dumpling Apron : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

    Unitee Kids  : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

    Unitee Kids : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

     

    Educational ITEMS (that you can totally use to teach in the kitchen and/or using food!)

     

    The Best of 2017

    Well, there you have it! Some of my most favorite small businesses and products from this past year. I hope you are able to score some deals to stock up on these items. No matter when you buy, I am confident these will be tools you and your family can use to achieve newfound feeding success in the New Year!

    Kid Friendly Friendsgiving Menu

    One of my favorite things about November is how just about every parent I know is trying to make a more intentional effort to instill an attitude of gratitude in their children.

    Between gearing up for Thanksgiving followed by the official season of gift-giving with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, now is an ideal time each year to involve our kids in the WHY behind the WHAT.

    Rather than just getting them dressed, in the car with two (preferably matching) shoes on, and on our merry way, I would love to encourage you to consider one additional thing this holiday season:

    How can you engage your children in a Friendsgiving gathering?

    While having a kid in at least borderline clean clothes and arriving somewhere on time is a success for any mom in and of itself, I think there is more we can aim for as we approach the holidays. This isn't to put more pressure on your already weighed down role as super mom, but rather to reflect on something I shared about in my Instagram stories last week:

    Reclaiming the FUN in motherhood.

    It is SO easy this time of year to get wrapped up in all the to do's, gifts to get, places to go, and people to see that the plans of getting little people properly dressed and out the door becomes THE goal. So can we just commit to take a step back and maybe even entertain the idea of a yoga pants and mom bun dress code when inviting others into our homes?

    Because as fun as it is to get dressed up and "actually do something" these days, there is something to be said for the legit Friendsgiving gathering that gives us a more authentic opportunity to see all there is to be thankful for, including friends, family, and wholesome food.

     
    Kid Friendly Menu Ideas for Friendsgiving
     

    So whether your Thanksgiving is filled with local friends, visiting family, or a combination of the two, this month's collaboration with my sweet friend Ashley from The Littles & Me is meant to help you cultivate thanks and reclaim the fun WITH your kids. We hope you enjoy the ideas shared in this post!

    Below are kid-friendly menu ideas for Friendsgiving plus some festive ideas for table settings.

    Be sure to then check out The Littles & Me for more ideas on Friendsgiving activities for kids!

    Kid-Friendly Friendsgiving Menu

     
     
     
    Turkey Veggie Platter for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
     

    Turkey Veggie Platter

    Want to know how to get your littles to eat a few more healthy foods this holiday season? Make them as inviting (if not more) than those you'd prefer them eating less of! This turkey veggie platter is a great thing to set out for snacking before your Friendsgiving meal. Better yet, have your child(ren) help pick which veggies will make up the feathers then help arrange them.

    While this turkey veggie platter may not travel well, it is easy to assemble on site. Just bring your grocery bag full of a few different colored vegetable items and some dip. Then when you get to whichever friend may be hosting your Friendsgiving, just put it together there in less time than it would take to bake or make something else!

    For our turkey, we used features made of: romaine, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots. The turkey head was made from a white mushroom and eyes were olive slices. The turkey's beak and wattle was made from two colors of bell pepper, as was the bowl for the veggie dip. We used the Siggis ranch dip recipe here, but hummus would also be a tasty option!

     
    Turkey Sandwiches for Friendsgiving or a fun Thanksgiving lunch
     

    Turkey Sandwiches

    For a fun and festive yet easy main course idea, make a turkey sandwich! You can fill it with a variety of ingredients and combinations, but we stayed true to a "turkey sandwich" and used all-natural turkey and sliced cheddar cheese between two slices of softer than usual whole wheat bread (so the bird didn't fall apart!). Just cut your sandwich into a circle using a cookie cutter, then you're ready to have your kiddos assemble the rest. Find a variety of apple types to vary the colors of the feathers, then use an apple cutter to core and cut into sections. Add a small triangle of sliced cheese for the beak. Raisins make an easy option for eyes, or you can plan a bit more ahead and use extra-fun eye ideas like these or these (affiliate links).

     
    Popcorn Cornucopia for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
     

    Popcorn Cornucopia

    Do you still have any ice cream cones lingering in the pantry since this past Summer? Well now is the perfect time to bust those out and put them to good use as cornucopias on your Friendsgiving menu. Easier than those you have to bake in a cone shape, these can be filled with popcorn for a festive tribute to our nation's pilgrims! Just be sure to use caution if offering to small children, as popcorn is a choking hazard for kids under four. With little turkeys who may not be ready for popcorn yet, offer Kix cereal as a safe corn-based option instead!

    For an easy, inexpensive, all-natural popcorn, use my DIY microwave popcorn recipe here.

     
    Dried Apples in the Oven for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
     

    Dried Apple Chips

    The Washingtonian in me can't do Fall without also including apples! Something I love even more is the excuse to soften up these crunchy Fall favorites to make them even easier for my 21 month old to eat and yet equally enjoyable to the rest of us.

    That's why I was excited to try this dried apple recipe from Eating Well. Using only an oven (as I don't yet own a dehydrator), we were able to make some softer dried apples as well as crisper apple chips to enjoy as the fruit component to our Friendsgiving.

    Need a shortcut? Buy some already dehydrated apple chips at the store (like these by Bare) and enjoy all the same! They aren't organic nor as cost-effective but in the spirit of ease, are a great time-saving option.

     

    Friendsgiving Tablescape for Kids

    Want to know one of the best ways to keep your children both occupied AND engaged as you prepare to host a Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving) meal? Assign them age-appropriate tasks that they can take pride in! These are a few of my family's favorites:

     
    Kid Friendly Friendsgiving
     

    Tablecloth

    I love the hands on idea Ashley shared in her Friendsgiving post here! See the example in the image above.

    Setting the Table

    Let your child pick out some festive and inexpensive items at the Dollar Store to set your Friendsgiving table with. While this isn’t the most environmentally-friendly option, it gives your child the freedom to set the table without fear of breaking their grandmother’s heirloom china. It also means no dishes for mama, so that’s a win win!

    Help your child to count the number of place settings needed, space them out around the table appropriately, then add in plates, cups, and plasticware. For a final touch, have them add the napkin to festive napkin rings (see the next idea).

    Turkey Napkin Rings

    Inspired by my friend Ludavia at The Mama Workshop, I just can't get over the cuteness of these easy napkin rings. We have been saving toilet paper rolls for the past few weeks so we would have enough tubes to make these, but you could totally use a paper towel roll cut up too if you are short on time! Regardless, all you have to do is trace and cut out your child's hand on Fall colored construction paper and you have an adorable, economical way to decorate the table.

    Name Cards

    If your child is able to write their letters, this is also a great excuse to have them practice spelling the names of those they are thankful for. Make little name cards to put out on the table and have your child write each person’s name on each to be set out at their spot at the table.

     

    Ready for more ways to create FUN with your little turkeys for a Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving) gathering?

    Hop on over to Ashley's post on the Littles & Me to see all these activity ideas:

    Friendsgiving Playdough Activity
    Color Your Own Tablecloth Thanskgiving
     
    Pin the Feather on the Turkey

    Happy Friendsgiving, friends. I am sincerely grateful for YOU!

    9 Clever Non-Candy Valentine's Day Ideas

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    Are you still searching for some Valentine's Day ideas that are fun and yet not full of sugar? Since roses and gourmet chocolates aren't quite the love language of little ones, consider using one of these non-candy Valentines Day ideas instead to send some love.

    9 Clever Non-Candy Valentine's Day Ideas

    You're my main squeeze. 

    Tie this free printable from Funky Polka Dot Giraffe around your kid's favorite kind of squeeze pouch.

     
     

    You are the apple of my eye. 

    Pair this printable from Craftaholics Anonymous with a whole apple, an Apple Pie LARA bar, or a snack bag of dried apple rings.

     
     

    You are awesome sauce.

    In case you didn't have enough apple-related options already, Craftaholics Anonymous offers another adorable saying to stick onto a cup of apple (or other flavored!) sauce?!

     
     

    Orange you glad we are friends?

    As part of Eat Healthy Designs Valentine's Bundle printable pack, choose any number of tags to put with cute, non-candy ideas. I love the idea of adding this one with an easy-to-peel clementine or two.

     
     

    I think you're a-doh-able.

    Put mini Play-doh containers (in the Valentine's sections at Target or any main grocery store) through this printable by Grace and Good Eats for a kid-friendly option that appeals to many ages!

     
     

    You blow me away.

    Pair this printable from The Girl Creative with a little container of bubbles. Almost everywhere around seems to have inexpensive options with heart-shaped wands (I have seen them at Hobby Lobby, Target, the Dollar Store, and Party City to name a few).

    You color my world.

    How fun to put this printable from Crazy Little Projects with a box of crayons/markers/colored pencils. Toss in a Valentine's themed coloring book for any extra-special friends.

    Monster Valentines.

    This would be such a hit with young girls, tweens, and fellow mom friends alike! Print these printables from The Idea Room with an EOS lip balm. You can buy a big pack at Costco to cover all the special ladies in your kids life!

    I love you a latte.

    For all those who love yon our littles (think teachers, bus drivers, Childrens ministry staff, etc.), give this free printable from Simply Noted with a gift card to Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop. For the extra crafty type, this DIY cozy tutorial (also from Simply Notable) is a super cute added touch!.

     

    Here's to helping all little ones go home with a bag of Valentine's Day loot that both parents and kids can love. Please share in the comments below any other non-candy Valentine's Day ideas you and your kid have or plan to hand out this holiday.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    My 10 Most Favorite Food-Inspired Homemade Christmas Gifts

    We all know the holidays can be an expensive and overwhelming time of year. From family to friends and everyone else, there are a lot of people to think about when it comes to gift-giving. The challenge for all of us though is finding a legitimately good gift for each person on our list, without totally breaking the bank. We don't want to regift unwanted items in attempts to have something/anything to give away, but also it can be both exhausting and expensive to buy something uniquely special and separate for each person.

    To solve this seasonal dilemma, I love to make homemade gifts to give out. Besides it being a rather easy and economical option, there are so many creative options in the $5 range. With the homemade element showing a bit of added effort, it can make a rather inexpensive gift seem extra special.

    I've compiled the following list with some of my personal favorites. Each are healthier than the usual fudge or cookies in a tin can. Each better, all of these are simple to prepare and easy to scale no matter the number of people you are playing Santa too. 

    There is no reason to leave anyone off your list with these homemade Christmas gift ideas:

    1. Candied Pecans (Veggies & Virtue): These are becoming my infamous homemade Christmas gift, made with local pecans and the hidden twist of egg whites instead of butter for the sweet, crunchy coating.

    2. Flavored Finishing Salts (Mommypotamus): Whether you are looking to give something sweet or savory, these salts are a super simple recipe to share.

    3. Smoothie Bowl Coloring Book (Meal Makeover Moms): It is self-print for FREE using the MMM link, then add a box of colored pencils plus little bags of smoothie bowl toppings for a fun gift to any age.

    4. Herb-Infused Oils (Free People): Perhaps on the backside of a gift tag, include your favorite way to use the oil!

    5. Coffee Stir Sticks (Live Eat Learn): Tie this cinnamon+chocolate stick up with a "this cup is on me" coffee gift card.

    6. Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Stir Sticks (mom4real): For the non-coffee drinkers in your life, tuck this in as a fun homemade touch with a cute mug and pack of your favorite hot cocoa mix.

    7. Soup in a jar (Good Housekeeping): Moms everywhere enjoy a meal they didn't have to make. Use this lentil soup recipe for an easy, economical alternative to take-out!

    8. Chocolate Chip Meringue Drops (Allrecipes): A healthier option for any cookie exchange!

    9. Chocolate Peppermint Bites (Milk & Honey Nutrition): For the LARA-bar lover in your life, these will be an unexpected holiday favorite - full of wholesome ingredients and festive flavors.

    10. Cranberry Orange Granola (The Foodie Dietitian): Whether served over Siggi's yogurt to start the day or enjoyed as a snack, this granola has seasonal fruits and spices that are sure to hit the spot this holiday.

     

    I may need to extend the Christmas season for another month because I want to make all of these recipes -- to enjoy myself and to share!

    What homemade gifts are your go-to's to hand out at Christmas time?

    15 Favorite Healthy Stocking Stuffers of 2016

    Last year, I collected a list of my 15 Favorite Stocking Stuffers for every little at-home chef. The list was a hit and gave many subscribers new healthy stocking stuffer ideas.

    From a mini silicone whisk that my daughter still uses EVERY time we scramble eggs to the 7-ounce size of WeeSprout reusable squeeze pouches, these stocking stuffers proved to get used again and again in our household as well. Now as we gear up for another Christmas, I thought I would share my newest list for our 15 Favorite Healthy Stocking Stuffers of 2016.

    1. Freeze-Dried Fruit: Whether you opt to buy full sized bags of freeze-dried fruit from Trader Joe's (my daughter is obsessed with the mango ones) or Just Veggies for any easy finger food for growing infants (and older kids!), I appreciate the non-perishable nature of freeze-dried foods. For stocking specifically, the variety packs are a great item! One, they fit in stockings better than full sized bags. Two, they give your kids a variety of options to try that can be spread out among several stockings. From whatever ones they like, then you can start buying full sized bags of those to toss in the car for an easy, healthy, on the go snack option!

     
    $19.99
     

    2. Mabel's Labels: I have been a sucker to many different types of labels over the years. From those sold on Groupon to ones that seem like a steal of a deal on Zulily, I have burned through a fair share of labels. Except, doesn't that defeat the point of these? The only reusable labels that actually "stick" to their claims of holding up to heat, the dishwasher, and the wear and tear of daily washing, are Mabel's Labels. We have only used ONE sticker on my oldest daughter's lunchbox for the past year and a half compared to competitors labels not even lasting a month on a bottle for our youngest. It amazes me that in 10 months, we have burned through more labels for our younger daughter (using "off brands") than I have in over 2 years of using Mabel's Labels for our older daughter! I will no longer veer from Mabel's Labels for sales on other brands, but rather be stocking our youngest's stocking with these this Christmas!

     
    $6.55
     

    3. Pick-ease: Some kids LOVE to use their hands. Others can't stand the feeling of food on their fingers. Regardless of which category your kids fall under, Pick-ease make a fun option for eating finger foods. Used to pick up anything from slippery mango to berries stuck in the "treat circle" of their Yumbox, Pick-ease offer a fun and safe alternative to toothpicks.

     
    $9.99
     

    4. Lunchbox Love Notes: For the child who is starting to read, these can be the sweetest touch to a lunchbox. While we all may want to write a little note on each kids napkin, the reality is packing lunches and getting out the door each day is enough work as is. Lunchbox Love Notes make it easy on parents, especially for those packing lunches for multiples. With sweet sentiments on one side and fun facts on the other, these offer endless engagement with kids of all ages - with minimal effort required from you, the parent!

     
    $23.92
     

    5.  Sippy Cups: I have reviewed the Lollacup before here, but these are another sippy cup we have since come to find and love. With a design that comes more highly regarded by experts in speech and feeding therapy, like Melanie Potock, these sippy cups lack the more traditional protruding "spout." Instead, these cups offer 360 degrees of "spout," training your kids young mouth muscles how to drink from more of an open cup than a sippy cup. This is a terrific in between option for kids still learning how to use standard cups and make a solid upgrade to any family's cup cabinet. 

     
    $9.71
     

    6. Reusable Straws: Whether you are a fan of silicone or stainless steel, investing in a small set of reusable straws is a worthwhile investment. Reducing the waste of standard straws while also improving kids ability to "suck" without biting a traditional straw in the process, these straws are helpful for any smoothie-loving family. For all Lollacup owners, you may also consider getting a new set of weighted straws to put in your kids stocking -- if theirs has seen better days.

     
    $10.95
     
    $6.95 $19.95
     

    7. Squeeze Pouches: Squeeze pouches are a hit with many ages. By making them a special treat versus an everyday food, squeeze pouches are a fun item to also include in stockings. I personally prefer to make my own using these reusable pouches, so that I can control the quality and quantity of the ingredients. On occasion that I need a non-perishable snack on the go though, these do offer an easy option to keep stashed in the car, diaper bag, or while travelling. My biggest recommendation when choosing however, is to READ THE INGREDIENTS.. Avoid those with added "fruit juice concentrates," which are added, unnecessary sugars. In general, look for ones with less that 12 grams of sugar per pouch (~100-120 grams) and at least 2 g of fiber. Some of my favorites are those by Earth's Best like Wholesome Breakfast Apple Raisin, and Wholesome Breakfast Sweet Potato Cinnamon.

     
     

    8. Smarty Pants Vitamins: While I don't professionally encourage vitamins for every kid, I do think they hold a valuable role in the diet of more apprehensive eaters -- like mine. This is the only brand that I buy our daughter. With all-natural ingredient, no synthetic colors, flavors, or preservatives. and a unique formulation for meeting kids specific nutritional needs, I appreciate the attention to detail Smarty Pants uses in this vitamin. Because of their third-party testing, I trust that what they claim is actually in this vitamin is really there. Plus, with a lightly sugared, gumdrop-shape vitamin, my daughter doesn't miss the inferior Disney-princess or "more fun" Flinstone vitamin options. She eagerly asks for these vitamins daily, making them one of the most cost-effective options on our Subscribe and Save! In the spirit of Christmas, it should also be said that Smarty Pants makes a matching nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels for every bottle of SmartyPants purchased, giving mothers and children around the world access to lifesaving and life changing vitamins and minerals.

     
    $13.46
     

    9. Mesh Feeding PouchEnter your about-to-lose-your-marbles-mom here! If you find yourself at home with a fussy, teething tot, these will become your newest best friend. By tucking frozen foods (my daughters like frozen plain yogurt "ice cubes" or frozen fruits best) inside this feeding pouch, your little one can safely gnaw on nutrient-dense options that soothe their gums....and thus save your sanity from the endless screaming. We have tried others, but the loop at the bottom of this one by Munchkin and the flexible mesh bag seems to be the most preferred from my/our family's experiences.

     
    $6.99
     

    10. Smoothie Coloring Book: I may be a nutrition nerd, but I don't know who could pass up this FREE printable offer from Meal Makeover Moms. You can purchase the printed version on Amazon, or visit the Meal Makeover Moms website to print your own copy for FREE! With healthy smoothie ideas for your whole family plus fun coloring pages for your kids, this is a great way to give kids of any age their first "cookbook" at Christmas!

     
    $10.95
     

    11. Color the Alphabet Coloring Book: This is another fun and educational option from Meal Makeover Moms. Give your kid the opportunity to learn about fruits and vegetables while engaging with the coloring pages at the same time!

     
    $9.95
     

    12. Healthy Snacks: Recently, I rounded up a list of my Top 25 Snacks from Target. With so many non-perishable items that become a necessity (when fresh foods aren't available or realistic), enter your email below to get the list with all of my RDN-approved faves.

    Target Pic.png

    When fresh foods aren't an option, don't settle for snacks that may "fill" but fail to actually "feed" your child and their growing nutritional needs. Shop with confidence at Target with this free printable featuring my, 

    Top 20 RDN-Approved Pre-Packaged Snack Foods at Target

    13: Spoons: Recently, I read a blog post from a respected Speech Therapist titled, "Choosing the Right Spoon for your Baby," I sure wish I had seen it prior to stocking up on spoons with our first! I love how she lists the best options for each and feeding stage. These are my favorite for younger feeders, while I am sure our almost three-year old would go crazy for this set of construction silverware!

     
    $34.95
    $17.49
     

    14: Magic Milk Straws: These are such a novelty, but I admit, even I think they are so fun. I am not a huge fan of giving my kids flavored milk due to all the added sugar (read: they basically never get it!). These milk straws, however, add the yummy flavored taste that kids love though without all the added sugar. I won't give these as an everyday item, but true to stockings standard fashion, these make a fun addition!

     
    $13.95
     

    15: Mickey Table ToppersAlthough my 2016 wishlist made a mention to how excited I am to use the ezpz mini mat instead of these table toppers, it would be unrealistic to act like we are never going to need these disposable covers again. From airplane trays to eating out, these disposable table covers are so nice to have on hand. Plus with fun Mickey characters on them, putting these in your kids stocking will make them think THEY are the ones getting the gift. Yay for practical presents that serve to make meal times less stressful and feeding more successful -- for both parents AND kids!

     
    $6.82
     

     

    Well, that's all for this year's list! Thanks for scanning through our list of favorites for stocking stuffers. I hope you found it helpful!

    Which items are you going to put in your kid's stocking this year?

    I'd love to hear in the comments below!

     

    Disclaimer

    Veggies & Virtue received no compensation for writing this review. However, some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means Veggies & Virtue will earn a small commission when purchases are made using those links. For more info, please visit the Veggies & Virtue disclosure page.