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Your Ultimate Guide to Kids Night Out: Greenville, SC and Spartanburg, SC

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Looking for events that provide childcare for kids for a kids and parent’s night out? Greenville, SC, and Spartanburg, SC have some fantastic options for parents looking for kid’s night out events. These organizations offer kid’s night out events where you can drop off your kids for a few hours so you and your significant other can have a date night, girl’s night, or shopping trip!

Parents Night Out / Kids Night Out events near Greenville, South Carolina
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30 Tips for Taking Road Trips with Kids

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Are you looking for road trip tips for families? And maybe you need some ideas about how to manage the kids in the car on a family road trip? Whether you need ideas for long-distance travel with the family, safety tips while traveling, or what road trip essentials to keep in the car, we have some great tips from lots of experience taking road trips with kids. Keep everyone having fun, and sane, with these family road trip tips!

travel with kids

We’ve spent a LOT of hours in the car on the road with many small children. I don’t think we are experts in many things – but we might qualify as experts on sitting in the car with our kids. The road can be a challenge for sure. Look at the same signs. Play the same games. Hear the same music. Create the same memories. However, being in the car with our whole family can be pretty amazing if you allow it to be.

Not quite ready for a long road trip with your kids? Check out these 10 Inexpensive Day Trips near Greenville in addition to our Ultimate Guide to Day Trips to start planning your next getaway! 

Well before you start packing for your big road trip, you’ll need to figure out where you want to go! Check out our Travel Guide, loaded with ideas, reviews, and information about dozens of places to vacation. The guide offers ideas based on state, city, educational opportunities while traveling, seasonal travel, and so much more!  

Top 10 Tips for Traveling by Car with Kids 

Traveling with children can quickly turn into lots of screaming and a constant chorus of “I’m hungry” if you fail to organize beforehand. You will find some of the best tips for traveling with children in our list below, so your long car ride will be full of tiny giggles, fantastic stories, and making memories!
  1. Don’t travel with children (Just kidding. Although I think I might have some PTSD from this last trip)
  2. If you are traveling with your children to places where the weather is different, dress in layers.  It’s so much easier to take a jacket on and off rather than to change a whole outfit.
  3.  Book your hotel ahead when traveling with kids, do it. It will save you (and your kids) some tears and will be more budget-friendly in the long run. And while you’re at it, try to find a chain that will give you rewards for your booking.
  4.  Pack a special bag for each child.  Your kids can put in it a few small toys from home. They can also add a coloring book and some crayons or colored pencils or Sudoku and crosswords for the older children.
  5. Pack a bag just for snacks! The natural version of Lunchables and the drinkable yogurt are an excellent way to make a road trip lunch easy and painless. Muffin liners make a great pass-around tray! (My children thought the little tray with its personalized portions of meat, cheese and crackers was super cool.  And anything cool means no whining, which I am all about.)   
  6. Play a Scavenger Hunt. Make up stuff that would be funny to your family – a personalized list – such as: a purple punch bug, three kids in a car, dogs on a billboard, a car that exactly matches ours. Decide a reward. Lots of fun!
  7.  Pack a special surprise for each day that you travel (or each hour on a short trip). These can be simple things from the dollar store, to a special candy to give them something to look forward to.
  8. Find something that will motivate them to behave in the car.  We have clips on the visor that get removed when there is naughty behavior.  If our kids’ clip is on the visor at the next stop, they get a reward.
  9.  Make sure that each child gets out at every stop and wiggles.  It makes for a long stop when you have to unload and load everyone every time, but it will be worth it.  Utilize fast food play areas when possible!
  10. Choose places to visit that will have fewer crowds. You can avoid crowded areas by visiting Quiet Beaches like Jekyll Island, the Outer Banks, NC, an alternative to Gatlinburg like Chattanooga, or SC beaches like Hilton Head. This way, you can make it a nice stop for a few hours on your road trip without having to wait in lines or potentially get lost. 
  11.  Last, but not least, take advantage of your surroundings.  If you’re passing by a Civil War battlefield, stop for 30 minutes and learn some history while getting out the wiggles.  Traveling can be an amazing learning time because children are actually experiencing and seeing the things they are learning about.

outer banks

Packing Trip Essentials for Long Road Trips with Kids

Packing for a long car ride is already difficult, but making sure you have what you need in the front of the car is very important when it comes to car rides with kids. Entertainment, snacks, emergency supplies, and things to make your children comfortable will help everyone stay calm and collected during the trip.

Utilize books on tape, music, and movies. Maybe even buy or borrow (from the library for instance) a few new movies that they haven’t yet seen. The Greenville Library has many movies, audiobooks, and magazines that can be checked out, or try Amazon and Audible and download them to your phone.

Pre-download movies, games, and books onto your child’s tablet. This way, you will not have to run your hotspot from your phone the entire time, and it will save you the hassle of running into connectivity issues! 

Pack a portable charger (and actually charge it beforehand). These will help keep everyone’s phones, tablets, and portable dvd players charged and ready for the long haul. 

If you are going screen-free, Keep the little ones happy and the car somewhat tidy, with a small bin tall enough for books standing up.  We used the kind meant to hold a few file folders on top of a desk.

Utilize coloring books. You can give each child a new hardcover drawing book with new super washable markers to keep them occupied. You can also purchase WaterWow coloring books for kids that are mess-free, and they are great for toddlers and preschoolers.

Use creative storage ideas to keep organized. Consider getting shoe organizers, meant to go over the back of closet doors, and hang them (cut to fit) on the backs of seats.  The pockets can hold coloring supplies, wipes, paper towels or even a juice box.  (Side note:  Even if you don’t have a child in diapers, bring wipes.  So many messes can be cleaned with wipes.)  

Pack a lot of snacks. Making sure there are snacks is key to reducing meltdowns and boredom. Try snacks that are rare but desirable, so they have a treat to look forward to. Having a combination of carb, fat, and protein-rich foods will help everyone stay full and avoid crankiness. If bringing a baby along, make pre-filled bottles of milk, formula, or breastmilk and use freezer packs to keep them cool while easily accessible. 

Pack a set of essential items for each child.  Paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, snacks, and drinks, placed all within reach while they are buckled are very helpful.  We also have a water bottle for each child

 Make sure there is a change of clothes for each child that is easily accessible (not in the suitcase).  I like to organize these in Ziploc gallon bags.  Also include some bags to use for dirty clothing.

I like to let each child take their own pillow, it’s worth it in the long run if they feel more comfortable. My children like to stuff their blankies, stuffed animals, and pajamas into their pillowcases.

Keep your emergency kit up front. Pack a thermometer, Tylenol, motion sickness medication, etc just in case along with your emergency kit. Keeping this upfront will help you avoid random stops if someone gets a cut or feels nauseated. 

Road trip with kids

Tips for Making Your Road Trip as Safe as Possible

When traveling with children, especially ones that can walk off and away from the group, its important to prepare everyone to be as safe as possible during your road trip. The tips below will help keep everyone safe while traveling. 

  1. Always Precheck Your Emergency kit: Keep a few of these necessities in the trunk: water, first-aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, a blanket, and snacks. You can find additional suggestions in articles such as this list on Popular Mechanics.
  2. Double Check car Seats are properly installed. Sometimes seats get shifted, toys get lodged underneath the car seat, and straps get twisted. Go ahead and make sure the seats are secure before you head out. Also, the current recommendation is to stay rear-facing for as long as possible, at least until age two, so following the safety protocols can keep everyone safe. 
  3. If traveling alone, try to do most of the driving during the daytime on well-used streets to avoid dangerous situations. 
  4. Utilize a child locator device if you plan to take extended stops in unfamiliar places. For teens, they may be able to easily communicate with you via their cell phones, but this can come in handy with smaller children in crowded places. Utilizing an apple tag, AngelSense and HereO GPS can ease your mind during hectic travel. 
  5. Practice Memorization of important information with your children. Make sure your children know your first and last name, phone number, or even license plate number if they are old enough. You can also write your phone number on your child’s arm or place where they can show someone if they get lost. 
  6. Use a buddy system– Never let your children travel in unfamiliar places alone. Let them know They have to stay with a buddy, whether that buddy is me or an older sibling. “Strength in numbers” is our motto.
  7. Use well-lit areas when stopping– Rest areas and large-scale service stations are the best places to stop if anyone needs to let our their wiggles or go to the restroom. Before stopping, take note of where you are (mile marker, nearby town, surroundings) and discuss this briefly with your children.

Grand Canyon

Tips for Staying in the Budget on Long-Distance Road Trips

Long distance, sightseeing trips can be magical and full of wonder! A couple of years ago Maria took a family road trip with three young children across the entire country. Traveling long distances with young children can be done without losing your sanity! The family traveled to Kentucky to visit the Corvette Museum on day 1, and then on to St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch. Then continued to travel to Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and then headed to meet up with our Traveling Homeschooler group at YMCA of the Rockies, where they spent one spectacular week.  We gathered some of the best way to keep the cost down during long-distance road trips! 

How to Keep Cost Down When Traveling Long Distance

  1. Utilize affordable hotel options. Hotels that offer affordable rooms, complimentary breakfast, and are located close to your main routes of travel can help you save money in the long run. You can also join their rewards program to rack up points to potentially gain a free night or two. Two popular hotel chains across the country that tend to have affordable rates and are well-maintained include Drury Inn and Home 2 Suites, by Hilton.
  2. When credit cards, use the ones with rewards programs. With many, you can earn points, rewards, and cash back. You can do this preliminarily in the months beforehand to help yourself earn rewards for your trip so you have some freebies or cash back during the adventure. 
  3. Use your memberships. When planning a road trip consider all the memberships you have to local museums and zoos.  Many of them are reciprocal with facilities around the country. Places like the Roper Mountain Science Center are part of a program of multiple museums and facilities across the country where their membership can be used, making your visit free!  To find out what museums offer reciprocity through the Roper Mountain membership, visit the ASTC Travel Passport Program page.
  4. Avoid heavy spending at gift shops. Gift shops are at literally every stop when you travel, but making a plan with the family to find a special, small item from each one can cut the cost while making for the perfect collection of souvenirs. Consider magnets, pin buttons, ornaments, and postcards as budget-friendly options! 

Remind yourself – your kids will literally be older at the end of the trip than they were at the beginning.

And when you strap them into their seat and you sit down into yours, you have just entered a little time machine where you get a chance to listen to your children, talk to your spouse, build up a memory bank with the people you love and redeem the day if you choose.

What’s your best tip for car travel with your kiddos?

RELATED: See our Travel page full of real parent reviews of nearby destinations!

20 Top Ideas for Great Dates With Your Kid

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Trying to plan some one-on-time with your child in Greenville, SC? Writer Kristina Hernandez shares her 20 ideas for a great date with your kid. These ideas range from splurges to free outings and are appropriate for all types of families and situations! We also have some tips to make the most of your special time.

Parent child dates in Greenville, SC

As soon as my daughter was old enough, as in she could maybe hold a slice of pizza and take a tentative bite, I took her on a date to my favorite pizza joint. While conversation with a three-year-old was limited, it was the time we spent together that made the difference.

As she has grown up and the concept of a “date” is slowly beginning to form in her little mind, she loves it when it’s just her and I out together or her and dad. Nurturing the child-parent relationship with dates is one of my favorite ways to spend time together – and here are some ideas to make it one of your favorite times too.


Tips for Date Time With Your Kid

Here are a few tips for maximizing this special time with your child from Kidding Around Owner Bethany Winston.

  • Don’t make the date a reward for good behavior.
    Don’t let this treat be one that has to be earned. Make it a treat that they get just because you love them and want to spend time with them. The kid who constantly presses your buttons is likely the kid who also really needs your attention.
  • Put your cell phone on “Do Not Disturb”
     If nothing else, it will send a clear message to your child that they are more important than your business and Facebook.
  • Do something inexpensive and simple.
    Remember this outing is about taking time to just enjoy your child. Big, glitzy programs can distract you from being able to really talk and get to know each other. When the outing is inexpensive and simple, it’s also easier to repeat frequently.
  • Don’t force your kids to talk.
    Sometimes it’s good just to take a break from trying to find out information from your child, and instead give them space to talk about what they want to talk about. You never know where that might lead. 
  • Cater to your kid’s preferences.
    Try to let your child do something that they enjoy rather than having to cater to your tastes. This might mean eating at a place that wouldn’t be your top choice or spending a half hour watching your kid climb a playground.
  • Try to incorporate moments like these into everyday life.

Places to Have a Date With Your Kid

Whether you’re planning a mother-daughter/son or daddy-daughter/son date, they can be super simple. But if you’re looking to get out and about, here are some great ideas for places you can bring your child throughout Greenville, SC!

Ice Cream Date

Because who doesn’t love going on an ice cream date? It’s inexpensive, doesn’t require a smaller child to sit still for a long time, and it can involve chocolate.

Trampoline parks

My personal favorite trampoline parks are Big Air, which has a ninja course, climbing walls, and a ropes course, and DEFY. Other great local choices are the Big Air Spartanburg, Sky Zone Greenville, and Urban Air.

Bike Ride

This can either involve an actual bike with an older kid or the parent walking next to their child riding a bike. Go around the block a couple of times and talk with your child or go on the Swamp Rabbit Trail (or other places) together. It’s exercise and bonding.

Pedicab Ride

Take a ride on a pedicab through Greenville with Greenville Bike Taxi. We did it during the holidays but you can do it any time of the year!

The Greenville Bike Taxi is so much fun, your kids will LOVE exploring the city!

Greenville Bike Taxi cover

Fly through the air

Go zip lining and climb through rope courses in the air at Flying Rabbit Adventures. This would be awesome for older kids who you can do the bigger course together with.

Flying Rabbit Adventures near Downtown Greenville, South Carolina

The Flying Rabbit Adventures ropes course is an epic kid date night!

Go see a play

I’ve taken my daughter to the South Carolina Children’s Theatre to see shows and it’s really fun. I used to go to Broadway shows in New York City with my mother when I was old enough and while Greenville isn’t NYC, it certainly has a wonderful theater community with excellent plays. And the Greenville Theatre has wonderful age-appropriate shows throughout the year.

Get Crafting

Head to ReCraft for a fun time together making new things out of old things!

ReCraft Greenville is a great place to craft with your kids!

Recraft Creative ReUse Center in Greenville, South Carolina

Go to Home Depot Free Workshop Days

Home Depot has a kid workshop day every first Saturday of the month and we’ve been going for years. It’s free and you get to build something together and paint it and get all messy. It’s a blast.

Shop for Cheap Books

If your kid loves to read, make a date out of any of our area’s used book sales or the massive Book Warehouse Outlet sales.

Story Time

Libraries are worlds of imagination and creativity. I am an avid reader and my kids love books so taking one to story time is a treat. Libraries also have lots of free craft activities! There are also several storytime events throughout Greenville that your kids will enjoy.

Museums

The Upcountry History Museum always has awesome exhibits and I’ve taken my daughter to them for dates before and we always really enjoy it. They are interactive and give parents the chance to read quickly and look smart for their kids (hoping that’s not just me). The Children’s Museum of the Upstate also has tons of great workshops and exhibits.

You can visit the Greenville County Museum of Art absolutely free. They also have great events and activities on their calendar and many are free.

Roper Mountain Science Center Starry Nights

The Roper Mountain Science Center has a planetarium night every Friday evening about the stars and constellations and you get to lean back and look up at the starry night sky. It’s really neat and fun for both kids and adults.

Roper Mountain Science Center, Greenville, SC

Roper Mountain Science Center has so much to do, including Starry Nights on Fridays, that make a perfect daddy/daughter, mother/son date night!

Go shopping

I really don’t enjoy shopping but I do enjoy shopping for my kids and letting them pick out clothes or a book or a toy. I’m a big fan of some of the children’s consignment stores in the area and thrift stores like Miracle Hill and Goodwill. It’s fun to take your child and pick out a book for 50 cents or a dress for a couple of dollars.

Find a new picnic spot

Greenville has so many special little outdoor nooks that are perfect for picnics. Pack your meal or grab a to-go meal from one of your favorite restaurants. If you need tips, we’ve got you covered with ideas on how to plan the perfect picnic.

Coffee/Hot Chocolate

While your kids hopefully aren’t addicted to coffee like us crazy adults, there are tons of great little cafes in the Greenville area to grab a caffeinated beverage for you, a hot chocolate for your kid, and maybe a scone or two to share and relax while sitting on a comfy sofa or at a window overlooking Main Street.

Go Indoor Rock Climbing

This is perfect for both kids and their parents who are adventurous or want to try something new. BlockHaven, Climb@BlueRidge, and projectROCK Easley are all great options for indoor rock climbing.

Places to go rock climbing near Greenville, SC, with indoor and outdoor options!

Rock Climbing in Greenville, SC

Take a hike

With miles and miles of trails in the area, you can’t really go wrong taking a hike together. Pack a lunch and have a great day together.

Pick-Your-Own-??

During the warmer months, there are lots of great options to pick strawberries, tulips, lavender, and apples, which provides opportunities for conversation and quality time together.

Get cooking or baking

Whether in your kitchen or taking a cooking class together like this bread-making class! Learning to make delicious food together is something that your child will carry for the rest of their lives.

Painting & Creating

The TReehouse Cafe and Art Studio is one of our favorite places thanks to its relaxing yet funky and artsy vibe. You can grab a meal together and paint or create art while there. Or you can go together to one of these painting/art places around town (just call ahead of time to be sure they have space).

TReehouse Cafe Travelers Rest

TReehouse Cafe and Art Studio in Travelers Rest is a great kid’s date idea, with art projects, delicious food, and awesome decor!

Go to a game

For older kids, a great date night would be to see a baseball game at Fluor Field. Or see the Greenville hockey team, the Swamp Rabbits, play at The Well.

Farmers Markets

From downtown Greenville to Travelers Rest to Simpsonville, the summer months are filled with beautiful farmers markets where you can take a stroll with your kid through the stands, grab a scone, and pick out produce and fruit that they like. In the wintertime, hit up the Toasty Farmer Indoors Farmer Market. It’s a good opportunity for them to help choose nurturing food for you both to cook at home together.

Go mini-golfing or golfing together

Takeoff Mini-Golf next to Runway Park in Greenville is such a fun place to go mini-golfing. There’s also free mini-golfing at McPherson Park in Greenville or Sparkle City Putt Putt in Spartanburg. For older kids, Top Golf or 3’s Greenville Golf & Grill are great choices.

Run a race together

So many great races are happening this spring in the Greenville area. Some offer child races but if your kid is old enough, run a short race with them (or if they are smaller, some races allow you to run with a jogger).

Enjoy the Outdoors

Greenville is situated in such a perfect place – it’s not far from the mountains or beautiful, pristine lakes. Go kayaking or paddleboarding on a date with your kid in either a tandem kayak if they are smaller or two kayaks. Go hiking – the trails here are really fun and there are hikes for people of all ages. Or go fishing together!

Go old school

Take your child to the Upstate Pinball & Arcade Museum where you can play all kinds of old-school games together.

Upstate pinball and arcade museum

The Upstate Pinball & Arcade Museum has $10 all-day gameplay!

Do you have a great idea for a date with your kid to add to our list?

How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Human Trafficking

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Concerned about the human trafficking stories you see in the news and on social media? We were too. KAG Contributor, Kristina Hernandez, visited with SWITCH, a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking and educating parents on how to protect their kids. She interviewed Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, and is bringing us tips for keeping our kids safe.

protecting kids from human trafficking

Maybe it’s because I’m a paranoid parent or because my work involves following the news – which is almost always bad – or maybe just because I watched Taken too many times, but sex trafficking is something that is consistently on my mind as I raise my two daughters. The fact that Greenville County leads the state in human trafficking cases has not escaped my notice either.

So I have a lot of questions, as I’m sure most parents around here do, about trafficking and I want – no, I need – answers. What is considered by law sex trafficking? What can I possibly do to shield my kids from being victims? What do I need to know about trafficking in Greenville and what do I need to watch for? Are my kids at risk of being snatched by traffickers in WalMart or someplace public?

Thankfully there is a nonprofit, SWITCH, in Greenville that works with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to not only help victims of trafficking recover, but also acts as an organization that educates the public, works to decrease demand, and intervenes to help women get out of trafficking and counsel them in recovery. Since their inception of the restoration program in 2014, SWITCH has helped over 115 victims of trafficking,

Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, became my new friend when it came to learning everything I needed to know about sex trafficking here in Greenville. She answered all my questions patiently and thoroughly, which are below. You can watch our Facebook Live interview with Jesslyn below because you cannot have enough information when it comes to protecting your children.  

If you have questions you want answered that we didn’t ask, send us an email or message us on Facebook!

FAQ: How to protect your children from human trafficking

What is sex trafficking and human trafficking?

Kidding Around Greenville (KAG): What is the actual definition of sex trafficking?

SWITCH: Sex trafficking takes place when force, fraud or coercion is used to induce someone into the commercial sex industry, or when a person 18 yrs or younger is involved in the commercial sex industry.

KAG: What are the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking?
SWITCH:
Trafficking looks different internationally than it does in the U.S. and it looks different within different parts of the U.S. Because we often think it happens like it does in the movie Taken and involves international kidnappings, chains, and dark basements, we miss it.

It’s such an unseen enemy because it involves psychological chains of force, fraud and coercion. A person can be living at home with their parents but being sold by peers on the weekend. So many victims don’t even self-identify because they aren’t in chains. Also, part of training for traffickers is to try to convince the victim it was their idea or choice. A young person who runs away and ends up being trafficked for a place to sleep may think it’s their fault this is happening because they chose to run away. Traffickers will exploit any vulnerability they can.

Social Media and How Kids Are Recruited for Human Trafficking

KAG: At what age are kids commonly trafficked? What do they have in common?

SWITCH: Nationally, the average age is 12-13 years old; in SC, the average age is 14-16 years old.. Traffickers are so good at what they do – finding someone’s vulnerabilities and unmet needs and then meeting those needs to build trust and establish a strong connection for the sole purpose of exploiting that person through the vulnerabilities and unmet needs they have. It’s the highest level of manipulation and deceit.

The number one way traffickers are reaching youth is through social media. A young person will complain about their parents and the trafficker will jump on that, relating to the youth, becoming a trusted friend, They then begin the process of grooming the young person and isolating them from people they are close to so they can break and turn them out into the commercial sex industry more easily. In our country, 300,000 youth are lured into the commercial sex industry every year.

KAG: How are kids usually recruited into the trafficking industry? Is it in person, online, through friends?

SWITCH: In SC, most cases involve recruitment by a family member.

KAG: Wait, what?! A family member?

SWITCH: This is a hard one for me to understand as well. SC is the #1 state in the country for reported cases of familial trafficking. Recruitment is the way people are brought into the commercial sex industry. The sad thing is, it often becomes a normalized way of life for people eventually and sometimes the only way they know to survive. There are many things traffickers will do to keep victims trapped in this lifestyle as well: criminal records, ruined credit, and drug addictions. It’s often hard for people to escape the commercial sex industry once they have been forced, frauded, or coerced into it.

KAG: OK – back to the original question – how are kids recruited?

SWITCH: The second most common method is someone pretending to be a boyfriend which is known as a Romeo Pimp. Peer trafficking came in as the third highest method of recruitment. This could be someone already in “the life” of the commercial sex industry who is now recruiting for their trafficker or a peer who is using threats and blackmail to coerce a classmate to have sex with others. There are numerous tricks, traps, and schemes used to force and trick kids into this.

Keeping Kids Safe From Human Trafficking

KAG: What steps can parents take to educate themselves on signs that their child may be trafficked and educate their kids on the dangers of sex trafficking?

SWITCH: As part of our prevention program, we have a presentation for parents to help educate them on what to look for and how to talk to their kids about this. It’s important to be a safe person for your child to talk to. Be mindful of your reactions when your kids open up and share things with you. Keep an open line of communication with them and know who the influences are in their lives. Be so careful with technology and social media.

You’re trying to guard and protect your kids from as much of this as possible but they need to know what’s happening so they can help protect themselves as well. Love146 is a wonderful resource for parents as well and be sure to check out our website as we will be updating it to provide more information on all of this.

Kidnapping & Human Trafficking

KAG: Anyone on Facebook nowadays reads about moms who are followed at WalMart or someplace like that and are petrified that someone is trying to kidnap their child for trafficking. Are those legit concerns? Do pimps really prey on kids like that in public places?

SWITCH: Anything can happen and it’s always good to be aware and cautious. With that being said, our local law enforcement does not receive calls about this type of thing and they aren’t handling cases involving this type of situation. We’ve done a great job teaching our kids about stranger danger and that’s important. With sex trafficking, the exploiter is someone the young person knows and trusts which is one of the most difficult things about these situations. It’s really important youth understand their own vulnerabilities and also know what a healthy relationship looks like as well as red flags to indicate it might be turning into an unhealthy relationship.

Caring for Victims

KAG: Does SWITCH help victims escape or do you work with other organizations who do that and then you take over on the business and counseling side?

SWITCH: Escape is tricky and looks much different depending on the situation. Some are desperate for a fresh start and do the hard work necessary to heal and start a new life. Not all situations are like that though. For a girl being sold by the man she considers her boyfriend, the level of manipulation is so deep. Even though she is being mistreated and abused, she may be in love with him and willing to endure the situation. Sometimes, people are trapped by the circumstances created by their traffickers like ruined credit, criminal records and drug addictions which makes it harder to break free.

For all victims though, there is an incredible amount of trauma to work through. A person has to be ready to leave the life they know behind in order to pursue a healthier future. Healing is not easy though and there’s a great fear of the unknown. People know what to expect from their abusive situations and find ways to cope. It may feel safer to keep surviving what they are than to step into a situation where they don’t know what they can expect. Readiness for change is such a key to success though. We encourage them, love them, guide them, but it’s important they make their own choice.

Human Trafficking in Greenville, SC

KAG: Greenville County has one of the largest number of sex trafficking cases in the state. That’s concerning. Why is that and what is SWITCH doing to lower those stats?

SWITCH: We’re on the I-85 corridor connecting Atlanta, which is often the highest ranked city for trafficking cases reported and Charlotte, who is usually in the top ten. We’re a convenient location between the two. Also, we currently have two dedicated officers focused on sex trafficking. It’s possible the rest of the state has as much activity but not enough man power within law enforcement to expose what’s really happening.

KAG: What resources does SWITCH have for parents who are looking for help on learning about sex trafficking, especially locally?

SWITCH: In addition to the coming updates to our website, we’re glad to speak to groups in order to raise awareness and train in prevention practices.

About SWITCH

About SWITCH: SWITCH was founded in 2012. The idea behind our name is when you switch a light on, the darkness flees. We push back the darkness of sex trafficking through five programs: awareness, prevention, demand, intervention and restoration.

Through our awareness program, we speak to businesses, churches, and other organizations to help adults understand what sex trafficking is and what it looks like in the Upstate. Our prevention program takes Love146’s Not a Number curriculum into youth groups, schools, the department of juvenile justice and other organizations with children in the 7th grade or older. Demand is a group of male volunteers who work with men in the Upstate connecting dots between how online porn is fueling the commercial sex industry. They provide resources, accountability and mentors to help break the addiction of pornography so many individuals face. Intervention is a group of volunteers who go into the district and strip clubs to meet commercial sex workers where they are and offer friendship with no strings attached. When people are ready to leave the life, they know SWITCH is a safe place they can come for help.

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10 Things To Bring Along When Hiking with Kids

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If you’re out hiking with kids anywhere in the Upstate, SC – or anywhere actually – we’ve got a list of 10 things you may want to consider carrying with you.

Things to bring along when you are hiking with kids

Our area boasts hundreds of miles of trails, from an easy stroll to strenuous trails up mountaintops. Lots of these trails are perfect for kids! I’ve come to enjoy hiking with my family, rarely hitting the same trails twice because there are just so many to choose from.

I’ve been hiking with my youngest from the time she was just three months old and strapped to me in a baby carrier (she’s eight now) and time in nature is something that has become almost a weekly ritual for us.  There has been a lot I’ve had to learn, including what to carry with me when we hike.

Hiking Grandfather Mountain

Nature Equals Adventure

I wasn’t always so interested in hiking with my kids though. Hiking with kids is an adventure in itself. I started hiking just a handful of times a year with my two kids. I then added more and more hikes every year, learning something new every time.

Now it’s an adventure I take with my two kids that we all enjoy and love. Remember to start with easy trails. Be careful not to overestimate your – and your kids’ – abilities and get in a situation that you aren’t prepared for. Older kids can typically handle more challenging hikes, plus they can help carry more items!

But what do you bring with you? That’s what I’m going to cover here. Most seasoned hikers will tell you to bring the “Ten Essentials” – wise advice, whether its a local trail or national park. These essentials vary a bit and I’ll add some to this list but will also incorporate what I’ve learned in my years of hiking experience as well. 

Hiking in Greenville, SC with kids

If you’re thinking of getting started hiking find more tips for hiking in our Newbie Guide to Hiking, which you may want to take a look at first.

You’ll find places in this post on hiking trails with young children that are great for kids.

Hiking with young children

10 Things to Take With You When Hiking with Kids for a Successful Hike

#1 Water

Don’t forget the water, especially in the summer. Getting dehydrated should not be on your to-do list. Make sure all the tops of the water bottles are closed tight and aren’t leaking into your backpack (I’ve learned the hard way on this one). There are also kid-friendly backpack style water bottles like this one. In cases of emergency, I also carry a LifeStraw, a straw with a personal water filter you can use and drink safely from streams or other water sources. 

#2 Snacks

Snacks on hikes are vital. They almost made it to the top spot in this list. Kids are whining? Give them a snack. Kids complaining they are tired? Give them a snack. You want your kids to make it to the waterfall? Bribe them with a snack. Kids love a good snack after a long hike!

#3 First Aid Kit

I always have carried band-aids with me but have since added more to my little portable First Aid Kit – namely antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, Neosporin, and After Bite to deal with stings (this is the product I’ve used the most). 

#4 Sunscreen

We do a lot of hiking and swimming in the summer and carrying extra sunscreen is important. 

#5 Map

I always screenshot a map of the trail I’m planning to hike on my phone and then take a photo of the map, if available, at the trailhead, if I don’t have a hard copy. This is especially key in more remote places that are less traveled. I used the AllTrails app but love Gaia as it’s usually more accurate. Maybe even plan out a scavenger hunt along the trail for fun!

#6 Trash bag

I always carry a plastic grocery bag we use for trash, both ours and the trash we find on the trail. Pack out what you pack in – a big part of the Leave No Trace principles. If you have a kid in diapers, take those diapers out of the forest with you and dispose in a trash can. Same with dog waste – it’s not ok to leave waste on trails or in trash bags on trails.

#7 Flashlight or headlamp

I’ve never had to use this on a hike but always carry it just in case. In our area, it’s not uncommon to read local news stories about people getting lost in the woods, especially over the summer since more people are out on the trails then. 

#8 Pepper spray or some kind of protection

I’ve never had to use this but after an alarming number of loose dog encounters, I now carry both pepper spray and a small, handheld zapper. A lot of people like to carry bear spray in the off chance of an encounter with aggressive wildlife. 

#9 Rain poncho

Getting caught in the rain, especially if it’s cold or when a chance storm hits, isn’t fun. Keeping kids protected with lightweight rain gear is a good idea. 

#10 Firestarter

Bring matches and something to use for tinder (dryer lint works great) in case you need it. 

Some other suggestions that may be helpful are a knife, a plastic tarp you could use as a makeshift shelter, and extra socks. If you’ve got a baby with you, be sure to bring extra diapers and wipes.

So, strap on your hiking boots and get hiking!

Winter hiking

Hiking in Greenville, SC

Love to Explore the Outdoors?

Check out our Guide to Hiking Near Greenville, SC, with trails for all abilities and ages!


The Best Idea for Making that Book Gift the Most Special Gift of All

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Love to gift a good book? Here’s an excellent idea for how to give your kids the important gift of a book for Christmas without it being lost in the shuffle!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

I don’t think there’s a Keigley gene for Early Rising.  Sure, as very newborn humans the kids woke up early – but 3 am isn’t actually early.  It’s more like – late.  Or middle of the night.

My dad was an extremely early riser.  Despite his hopes and his best efforts, the habit has never actually rubbed off on me.  And not on my children either.

I have friends whose non-baby children routinely awake at o’dark thirty, full of energy and go-get-em.  I pity those parents.  (Just kidding.  They all seem happy about sunrises.  Good for them.)

Our kids are mostly late sleepers and quiet awakers.  Hooray for me.  And, truly, Christmas morning is generally more of the same.

(I bet you were wondering where this ramble was heading.  It’s heading this way.  I’ll show you.  I start my posts like I start my mornings – slow.)

Book gifts, giving books for Christmas

The tradition began

We have never had a Christmas morning with children  bouncing into our bed at 4 am nor have we heard secret unwrapping sounds at 6 am.  However.  Since early on I was not certain how the Christmas mornings would find our children, I had prepared an idea to battle the potential Too Early Christmas Morning Woes.

This tradition began when my oldest daughter, Riley, was small – and it’s been a steady family favorite since then.  Since those early years, there has never been a Christmas without this tradition.  (Even Christmas mornings on the road – this has been one easy tradition to take along with us.)

While the kids are sleeping on Christmas Eve, I sneak to their rooms and place a wrapped book on the foot of their beds.  In the morning, when their golden slumber ceases, they open their eyes, spy the book and are allowed to open it all alone in their cozy warmth and to enjoy its treasure.

It’s been a sweet way to encourage a quiet beginning to the Christmas holiday.  It’s a lovely way to ensure that the gift of a book doesn’t lose its value underneath shinier and louder options.  It creates an environment that says words have value and reading is special.

I love picking their books each year.  I always include an inscription and the date on the inside front cover.

One year my daughter was really into Nancy Drew.  This year my girls are loving the Warrior series.  I remember the year four-year-old Hawkeye received his own copy of Stellaluna after checking it out at the library weekly for the better part of that year. There have been cookbooks and comic books and a slow building collection of their own Lord of the Rings copies.  Also, a beautifully illustrated Hobbit.  The kids have pored over treasured Calvin and Hobbes books for years.

I hope the Book on the Bed tradition is one our children will cherish and remember fondly – and even – find themselves sharing one day with their own children.

Locally-owned bookstores: Greenville, SC

Find a great book!

Check out these locally-owned bookstores in Greenville, SC.


The Ultimate Greenville, SC Gift Guide

For more Christmas gift ideas, see our Greenville Gift Guide.

Does your family have a favorite Christmas tradition?

10 Practical Gifts that Your Kids Will Love

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Trying to find some practical gifts the kids will love? If your kids are like my kids, they not only already have plenty of toys, stuffed animals, and gadgets but they also have a whole family of grandparents, aunts, and uncles who eagerly shower them with cool gifts this time of year. In fact, usually the gifts from relatives way outshine the gifts that my husband and I buy for the kids ourselves. And, that’s fine.

So, what are some gifts for kids that aren’t toys?

Trying to figure out what to buy though that’s awesome but yet not just adding to the pile is a bit tricky, so I’ve come up with this list of ideas that I plan to use to ensure that my kids’ gifts are packed with essential and practical items without my kids even knowing it.

This post contains affiliate links including Amazon affiliate links.

Practical Gifts for kids

Towels that Double As Costumes

Did you know that hooded towels are sold for “big kids”? And, they come in every type of character that you could imagine. I’m definitely stocking up on a new towel for both of my kids this Christmas. We already have this adorable rainbow unicorn towel as well as a superhero towel that I purchased from Kohl’s.

This Christmas I’m eyeing this Minion towel and this Elsa towel to round out our collection. Though I might just get this Yoda towel instead because it’s so cute.

And Pajamas that Double As Costumes

My little girl wears her Elsa nightgown that I purchased last year for her all the time, and I like that it’s sturdy enough to handle washing and wear-and-tear unlike most dress-up clothes. It’s also softer. This year’s version is a little different than the one I purchased and it’s even cuter!

I’m sure that it won’t ever be as popular as Elsa but I think I might get my kid this Anna nightgown this year to go with her Elsa one! Or I might just get her a long sleeve version of Elsa’s dress.

Books that Your Kids Won’t Put Down

We received two Activity Books (The Big Pink Activity Book & The Big Blue Activity Book) for review purposes earlier this year, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They literally entertained my kids for months, no small feat. The only change I would make is I would cut out the sticker pages in the back if I were to buy the books over to make accessing the stickers easier.

If your kid is an early reader, be sure to sneak some Elephant & Piggie Books into the mix. These books are so much fun that even reluctant readers enjoy giving them a try.

I also picked up The Book With No Pictures last year for Christmas and it’s still requested even now.

The Coolest Toothbrush on the Market

I received this Darth Vadar Firefly toothbrush that looks like a lightsaber at a recent blogging conference. I love that it has a timer (my kids really need that) and my kids love brushing their teeth with it. It’s not nearly as cool as the Darth Vadar toothbrush but there’s also a Hello Kitty toothbrush that I was given for my little girl. I have a feeling though that there are many little girls who would totally bypass the Hello Kitty to have a lightsaber toothbrush.

Experience Gifts

I absolutely love experience gift ideas. Not only does the gift not take up space (or collect dust) but also you can purchase an experience that encourages family time together. Some of my favorite choices for children are local memberships to museums, zoos, or science centers.

Another idea is purchasing tickets to a local event or sport. If you are on a tight budget this Christmas, don’t underestimate either the value of just promising to take your kids on an inexpensive adventure locally whether it’s park hopping on a Saturday or a low-budget outing like an ice-cream date.

Experience gift ideas for Greenville, South Carolina

You can read my full list of Experience Gifts Unique to Greenville here.

Also, I’ve heard many moms talk about how much they love Kiwi Crate’s monthly craft box subscription.

Educational Computer Games

While I’m definitely serious about limiting screen time, I do like having a couple of quality online programs that the kids can play on those crazy days and during school vacations. Two of my personal favorites are:

Starfall (perfect for preschoolers) – You can play the base level of Starfall for free, but the premium version is not very expensive and includes quite a bit more content.

Reading Eggs – This program is more expensive but it’s packed with developmentally appropriate lessons in both reading and math that are combined with incentives. My kids beg to play it!

Board Games

Board games are awesome and kids love them. I’ve purchased educational games for my kids to help them with specific skills but really almost every game has a component that will help your child educationally whether it’s logic, numbers, or language.

Richard Scarry’s Busy Town – This game is good for kids who like looking and searching for objects and don’t mind a slower pace. One great feature is that it’s a cooperative game that takes out the competitive edge for kids too small to understand winning and losing.

Cool Umbrellas

My kids both have cool umbrellas that we found at the Mast General Store. I found some similar items on Amazon: Shark Umbrella,

Dragon Umbrella, and this Princess Umbrella (one of the umbrellas we own)

With Rainboots to Match

I think that rain boots are one of the most practical yet fun gifts that you can give your kids. My kids wear their rain boots for pretend play, snow days, to puddle stomp, and just for fun. We always get compliments on the fun designs.

We have a dinosaur boot set very similar to this one and a butterfly set similar to this one.

Educational Toys

I’m eyeing this set of Snap Circuits for my older kid who loves science.

Educational Gifts for kids, and educational gifts for Christmas

If you’re looking for more science ideas, see our huge list of Educational Gift Ideas.

More Practical Gift Ideas

  • Piggy bank: Teach them to save with a cute piggy bank. My son received a cute monkey bank when he was very young and it has remained a favorite (and useful) treasure.
  • Digital camera: If your kids don’t carry a cell phone in their pocket (and mine don’t either!) they might enjoy their own camera for documenting all their adventures.
  • Musical instruments: Learn a new skill! This can be as simple as a recorder and a book or as complicated as a trumpet and a promise of lessons in the new year.
  • Practical Stocking Stuffers: These are big in my house. We do fun socks, new hair ties, a hair brush, sometimes favorite snacks, chapstick, or even character-branded teas or mugs. Like these Star Wars cups from The Republic of Tea.

I would love to hear your suggestions for practical gifts this Christmas! Let me know in the comments.

Don’t miss our list of 75+ Local Gift Ideas for Greenville and our Holiday Guide with over 75 Things to Do Over the Holidays!

The Christmas Season: How early is too early?

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The “how early is too early?” Christmas season debate is on. Decorations are going up all around the Upstate. Do you think November decorations are too ambitious? How about Christmas music? What album is Alexa playing on repeat at your house? Here’s Kidding Around Contributor, Taryn, with her take on the early start to the holiday season.

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15+ Foolproof Gifts for Teachers: Plus Dos and Don’ts Tips

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Looking for gifts for teachers in your life? It can be tricky trying to find school teacher and preschool teacher gifts that they will love that are within your budget – especially when you are buying for multiple teachers! Whether you’re looking for a holiday gift, something for teacher appreciation week, or an end-of-the-school-year celebration gift, our readers came through with some thoughtful gifts and great ideas.

What gifts do teachers want?

Want to Buy Your Child’s Teacher an Awesome Gift and Skip the Reading? Choose one of these gifts!

This post contains Amazon Associate links.

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50+ Best Family Games: (2023) Parent-Tested Games Everyone Can Play

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Will you be looking for the best family games? We have gathered over 50 of the best family board games 2023 has to offer, so add these to your gift list! If you’ve exhausted your stash of family board or card games and need new ideas of things to do with your whole family, we’ve surveyed our readers for the best games for family game night. We discovered that our readers seem to be quite the board/card game experts! We took their advice and then added a few board game ideas of our own.

Best family games: board game addition

We looked specifically for games that everyone can play, including our little kids who can’t read yet. So here’s the massive list and short, product descriptions taken from the game itself. We also added our own thoughts on some games we really loved. Then, we added some tips on how to plan a family game night! Check off your gift list for the holiday, with many games having Black Friday board game deals!

In this family board game list you’ll find:

  • best family board games
  • favorite family card games
  • ideas for family game night
  • easy to learn games
  • strategy games for the family
  • games for families to play together, no matter the age range
  • board games for kids by age

If we missed your favorite board game to play with your family, let us know in the comments. 

Some products from Think Fun and Ravensburger were provided for the Kidding Around Team to review. Opinions expressed are those of our team members.
This list contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Family board games

Top Tips for Establishing a Family Game Night

  • Be consistent. Having a specific day and time that works for everyone will help make it a routine.
  • Designate a family member to plan a game night. This can be for every game night or switch off each time.
  • Turn off the tech! Put the phones on silent, turn off the TV, and tune in to your family game night!
  • Always have a backup game (or two) available. Especially when trying out a new game. This will help you see what everyone is interested in for future gameplay.
  • Bring out the snacks! Craft a kid-friendly charcuterie, break out the hot cocoa, whatever will keep your kid’s tummies full and happy while you play.
  • Most importantly, relax and have fun! When everyone is having a good time, then everyone is more likely to want to engage again next time.

Best Family Games For Families With Young Kids

Babies and Toddlers

While babies and toddlers aren’t really ready for traditional board games, they can still get in on the fun with some help from older siblings, parents, and friends!

My First Railway Light Up Rainbow Set

This simple train set uses sound and light-up colors to teach simple sequencing. To play just watch the blinking lights and drive the train on the path that lit up. Do this for each color of the rainbow and then you get a song and lights reward. While this game is marked for children 18 months and up, younger kids may still enjoy the blinking lights and sounds when they use the set with a caregiver.

My First Railway Light Up Rainbow Set


Great Family Games for Families With Kids Ages 3+

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Your forest friends are hungry and they need your help. Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your squirrel squeezer, and place it into your log. Be the first to fill your log with delicious acorns and you win. You could also spin “pick an acorn, ” “steal an acorn, ” or “lose an acorn, ” so be strategic, little squirrel. The game is easy to understand, so my four year old enjoys playing it more than some other games. It is currently one of our favorite family board games.

Teh Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Sequence

It’s the classic game of Sequence made just for kids! Play an animal card from your hand, and place your chip on the corresponding animal on the board. Wild cards add excitement to the game – use a unicorn card to place your chip anywhere, or use a dragon card to remove an opponent’s chip. The first player with four chips in a row wins! This exciting strategy game helps develop logical thinking skills. Reading is not required to play

Crazy Eights

Classic card game. Easy to play for kids.

Candy Land

This adorable version of the classic Candy Land game features gingerbread men as movers, colored cards, and fun illustrations that kids love, with different destinations like Cookie Commons and the chunky Chocolate Mountain. Candy Land is one of the classic favorite board games for families, and a wonderful introductory game for kids.

Chutes & Ladders 

Climb up and slide down in the exciting game of ups and downs, Chutes and Ladders! The Chutes and Ladders board game for girls and boys has been around for over 60 years and has been enjoyed by families for generations. Players can see the square marked 100, but how will they get there? If a player lands their pawn on a good deed, they can shimmy up a ladder, but land on the wrong spot and they’ll shoot down a chute!

No reading is required to play this simple and easy game for preschoolers. 

Family Treasure Hunt Game

GoTrovo is an action-packed pirate scavenger hunt board game for the whole family.

Hi Ho Cherry O

Preschoolers can have so much fun picking fruit to fill their baskets, that they don’t even realize they’re practicing math skills, such as counting, addition, and subtraction. Players choose from two different play options and take turns picking pretend cherries, blueberries, apples and oranges from their tree. If the spinner lands on a bird or a dog players will have to return cherries to their tree.

Pete the Cat Groovy Buttons

Pete the Cat is the coolest cat ever. Based on the best-selling book series, our Pete the Cat games introduce kids to simple learning concepts wrapped up in fun games. Kids learn color recognition, counting, and decision-making skills. Kids keep on movin’ and groovin’ with Pete the Cat.


Family Games for Kids Ages 4+

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hurry little owls: In this color-coordinated matching game, players cooperate to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. Help all the owls home before sunrise and everyone wins!

“A friend just got my 3 year old this game! Fun for the whole family to play together. Highly recommend this one!” ~Amanda

Zingo

Zingo is one of ThinkFun’s most popular and bestselling games, and is the winner of an Oppenheim Gold Award and Parents’ Choice Gold Award, among others. It’s a fun pre-reading game for ages 4 and up. Like all of ThinkFun’s games, Zingo is built to develop critical thinking skills. Playing will improve language skills through fun and fast-paced play.

Zingo numbers bingo

Zingo Sight Words
Zingo Numbers

Banana Blast

Roll the die to see how many bananas you get to pick from the tree top. One of the bananas will make Banana Joe jump, but it’s a different banana every time. If the monkey jumps, all the players must try to catch him before he hits the ground. The player who catches Banana Joe gets a bonus!

Pop the Pig

Pop the Pig is an international preschool classic that is adored by millions of children. Kids roll the die, pop a hamburger into the pig’s mouth and pump his head. The more they pump, the more his belly grows (along with the suspense!) until – pop! The player who makes his belly burst wins the game.

Children can quickly reset the game with one pump of the pig’s head and experience consistent belly-busting gameplay each and every time.

Trouble 

The excitement begins as soon as a player presses the Pop-O-Matic bubble to roll the die. In the Trouble board game, kids race to get all their game pieces around the board; but be careful! A player could get bumped and sent back to the beginning.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

You’ll have a chompin’ good time with Hungry Hippo and his pals! Be ready to join in the feeding frenzy when you release all the marbles onto the game base, because all the hippos will be chomping and your hippo will need to move fast! If he chomps the golden marble, you win! 

Giggle Wiggle

Giggle Wiggle is a cute caterpillar with several hands to spare! Race to place your colored marbles from his bottom row of hands all the way to the top as he wiggles to the music. Watch out – this wiggly caterpillar will try to knock off your marbles. If he does, just pick them up and keep on racing. The first player to get all their marbles on in a row wins! This easy-to-learn, quick-to-play game is a fun, active challenge that will have kids laughing and dancing while they play.

Funny Bunny

Funny Bunny is an adorable game that is perfect for ages 4 and older. 2 to 4 players can race their bunnies up the hill to the giant carrot on top. Players are given four bunnies, and increasingly add them to the board as they draw cards to allow them a number of spaces to move. However, there are “click” cards that allow the player to turn the giant carrot clockwise, which opens pits, lifts bridges, or knocks your bunny off the board! As you move around the board, you can “hop” over other players. This game was highly enjoyed by my preschooler.

Funny Bunny


Best Family Games We Love for Kids Ages 5+

Monopoly Junior

Welcome to the first Monopoly game for kids, where they can earn money the fun way! The Monopoly Junior game is just like the classic Monopoly game, but it’s accessible and exciting for younger players. It’s fast, simple, and full of surprises. Kids choose their favorite Junior token and learn how to pass Go, buy properties, and collect rent. Single banknotes keep transactions fast and easy.

Dragon’s Breath

Dragons and crystal collecting, who could ask for more? This collecting game is part of the wonderful line of board games by HABA. The game follows a family of dragons as they try to get the most gems out of the ice-filled rings by choosing a color gem. Then, Dad Dragon “melts” the ice by removing gems, allowing the gems to fall from the tower to be collected by the kids. The goal is to gather the most gems. The game is engaging and imaginative while lasting around 15 minutes per play, and is the perfect game for family night.

Dragons Breath game

Pumbaa Pass

Any Lion King fan will love this new, exciting, and fun family game featuring a very hungry Pumbaa! Pumbaa’s ready for some tasty grub—icky bugs to you and me! Players take turns feeding him the colorful critters until, well, he tosses his cookies, loses his lunch—you know, pukes. Then it’s time to scramble to find the bugs you need to win! To win Be the first player to match all three bugs on three different leaf cards. 

“Not a board game but got this for our 3yo for his birthday, great for colors, matching and early counting.” ~ Scott

Race to the Treasure

In this game, which has won multiple awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, players try to beat the Ogre to the treasure by creating a path from Start to End. Along the way they need to collect three keys to open the treasure. Players strategize, cooperate and build a path together. If they do it before the Ogre gets there, they all win! 

Scrabble Jr.

What a great way for kids to play America’s favorite word game! Kid-sized words and colorful pictures make it fun to match letter tiles to words on the grid. Players move their funny tokens up the score track as they score points. When all of the tiles have been placed on the board, the player with the most points wins! Don’t worry, your little ones won’t outgrow this game; just turn the board over for the advanced level, where they come up with their own words. It’s going to be letter-matching fun for everyone with Scrabble Junior. 

The Grape Escape

This Play-Doh-based game allows players to create their grape character with clay, and then try to make it through the board game and past the factory contraptions to the grape launcher without getting squished in the process. The key to the game is to get your grape to the launcher and fling it out of the factory first. This game is perfect for ages 5 and up and is quick-paced so it can be played multiple times during family game night.


Great Games for Kids Around Ages 6+

Connect 4

Challenge a friend to disc-dropping fun with the classic game of Connect 4! Drop your red or yellow discs in the grid and be the first to get 4 in a row to win. If your opponent is getting too close to 4 in a row, block them with your own disc! Whoever wins can pull out the slider bar to release all the discs and start the fun all over again! 

Guess Who

Beloved 1980s version of the classic mystery face game is back! There’s a mystery person on your opponent’s card. Can you find the matching face in the crowd? Start with your game full of silly-looking characters. Then ask the right questions to eliminate the wrong faces! Does your person have blue eyes? Is your person wearing a hat? Once you’re down to a face or two – solve the mystery by guessing who! If you’re the first to identify your opponent’s mystery person, you win.

“It’s not a board game per say, but we play Guess Who a lot. We team up, since my 3 year old needs a little help, but she’s getting pretty good at it!” ~Jennifer

Sorry

Slide, collide and score to win the Sorry! Game. Kids draw cards to see how far they get to move one of the pawns on the board. If they land on a Slide they can zip to the end and bump their opponents’ pawns – or their own! Jump over pawns and hide in the Safety zone where opponents can’t go. Kids keep on moving and bumping until they get all three of their pawns from Start to Home.

Operation

In the Operation game, you get to be the doctor and make Cavity Sam better or get the buzzer! Cure him of all his wacky ailments like headphone headaches and gamer’s thumb by picking funny ailment pieces out of the game tray with a pair of tweezers. But watch out! If you touch the sides of the openings, you’ll get the buzzer and light up Cavity Sam’s nose! The player who removes the most ailments wins!

Spot It!

Test your observational skills and your reflexes with the award-winning gameplay of Spot It!, a game of lightning-fast choices for two to eight players. With dozens of awards and possible versions married to elegant gameplay, Spot It! has become a global phenomenon. Five distinct mini-games within a set of Spot It! ensure that the game will be different every time you play, and because it’s always your turn, there’s never any downtime.

Aggravation

Take a trip down memory lane with this retro 1989 edition of the fun family-favorite, the Aggravation Game! It’s The classic marble race game where 2 to 6 players compete. Opponents race around the board from base to home, disrupting each other’s marbles in the quest to be first. 

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Players of all ages can now venture across America by train in Alan R. Moon’s ticket to ride: first journey. With a brand new map and simplified rules, first journey is the perfect way to introduce new players to the game of cross-country travel while you claim train route. Just like in ticket to ride, players collect train cards, claim routes, and try to connect cities coast-to-coast. In first journey, though, routes are shorter, train cards are drawn straight from the deck, and the game ends when one player Completes six tickets, claiming the Golden ticket as their prize. Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a wonderful starter game when delving into the Spiel des Jahres board game world.

Munchkin Wonderland

One of the many versions of the Steven Jackson Games Munchkin, this version is simplified so that kids as young as 6 can play! This card game is based on Alice in Wonderland and is full of silly jokes, treasure hunting, monster bashing, and more. The game takes about an hour to play and is great for groups of 2 to 6 players. The game is a lot of fun, and is a great starter game if you are looking to get your kids into the Munchkin universe in the future (I know we are!).


Games for Families With Kids Ages 7+

Battleship

This Battleship board game is the classic game of naval combat that brings together competition, strategy, and excitement! In a head-to-head battle, 2 players search for the enemy’s fleet of ships and destroy them one by one. With convenient portable battle cases and realistic-looking naval crafts, the Battleship game puts players right in the middle of the action. Players command a powerful fleet that includes an aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a submarine, a patrol boat, and a battleship. Each player announces the coordinates of each strike and sees if it hits. Battleship still holds its own in comparison to some of the more modern board games, and is truly a classic.

Blink

Blink is a lightning-fast game where two players race head-to-head to be the first to play all of their cards! Using sharp eyes and fast hands, players quickly try to match the shape, count or color on the cards. For instance, a card with four yellow stars could be played on any card with yellow (color), or on a card with stars (shape), or on a card with four symbols (count). Don’t be fooled by the games’ simplicity—your hand and eye coordination will be put to the test! The first player who can rid themselves of all their cards wins. 

Blokus

Stake your claim and protect your territory with the Blokus game! It takes less than a minute to learn, but offers endless strategy and fun challenges for the whole family. Each player gets a set of 21 pieces – in red, blue, green, or yellow – then takes turns placing them on the board. There’s just one rule: each piece you play must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners! The goal is to fit the most pieces on the board. The game ends when no more pieces can be placed down, and the player with the lowest number remaining wins!

Labyrinth

Search for treasure deep within the twisting maze! The playing board constantly changes so no two games are ever the same! The cards will determine your quest. Looking for the Dragon? How many routes can you take and also foil your opponents? Try to gain the advantage by inserting the extra tile to move walls and open passages of the labyrinth. Block and advance is the strategy! The first play to reach all of their treasure wins!

“We love labyrinth. Our 5-year-old can play but needs help occasionally. My 10 and 8-year-olds really enjoy trying to beat Mom and Dad.” ~Kristen

Disney Villian Labyrinth

Labyrinth is my family’s absolute favorite board game. This version replaces the original Labyrinth characters and objects with all of your favorite Disney villains. You use the tile pieces to create a random maze on the game board. Each player has a set of cards with characters that they need to collect on their journey through the maze. The maze changes as each player takes their turn, keeping everyone on their toes.

Disney Villains Labyrinth is a 2-4 player game recommended for ages 7-99.

Taco vs. Burrito

TACO vs. BURRITO is a deliciously unpredictable card game where players compete to create the weirdest, wildest meal. Created by Alex Butler, age 7, this game is easy to learn – and not so easy to win. Fun for (and play-tested by) all ages, TACO vs. BURRITO is the ultimate Game Night Food Fight! The game is one of our favorite party games when we have younger family members over.

Sequence Dice

Roll the dice and place a chip on a corresponding number on the game board. Roll a 2 or 12 ….get another turn. Roll a 10…remove an opponent’s chip. Roll an 11…place your chip on any number. Get 5 chips in a row and YOU WIN!

Skip-Bo

Skip-Bo is the ultimate sequencing card game from the makers of UNO! Players use skill and strategy to create stacks of sequentially numbered, ascending cards (2,3,4…) until they have no more left to play. Once everyone is dealt their own personal stockpile of cards, play begins by drawing from a central pile and building up to four “build” piles. The Skip-Bo “wild” cards break up static situations and may be played as any number. Use these cards wisely, for they can really help you beat your opponents! The first player to deplete all of his or her Skip-Bo stockpile cards is the winner!.

UNO

UNO is the classic family card game that’s easy to pick up and impossible to put down! Players take turns matching a card in their hand with the current card shown on top of the deck either by color or number. Special action cards, like Skips, Reverses, Draw Twos, color-changing Wild and Draw Four Wild cards, deliver game-changing moments as they each perform a function to help you defeat your opponents. If you can’t make a match, you must draw from the center pile. And when you’re down to one card, don’t forget to shout “UNO!” The first player to get rid of all the cards in their hand wins. 

UNO DOS
We at UNO have long believed that two is better than one, and now we’re making it official! If you like UNO, you’ll love UNO DOS! In the beloved card game UNO, you (or your team) are trying to be the first to score 500 points. You score points by being the first to get rid of all the cards in your hand, and action cards let you make things more difficult for your opponents. In this twist on the family favorite game, now when you’re down to two cards, don’t forget to yell “Dos!” See why this color-coded card game has been a hit for so many years.


Best Family Games: Best for Ages 8+

Life

In The Game of Life game players choose a path and move their car tokens around the gameboard from Start to Retirement. Who is headed for wealth and fortune? Pick a path for a life of action, unexpected surprises, and dream vacations, but spend cash wisely because the wealthiest player at the end wins the game.

Rack-O

Rack-o was originally released in 1956, and since then families have enjoyed this Rack’Em & score fun-filled card game. This new addition, featuring fine-quality cards with bold numbers, will delight players young and old. Rack-o is timeless fun. Players randomly slot 10 cards on their rack. The race then begins to draw and discard until one player positions 10 cards in numerical sequence from low to high. 

Quixx

This quick-playing dice game will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end! Qwixx is simple to play but each decision is crucial – the more numbers you cross off, the more points you score. With no downtime between turns you’ll have a chance to gain from each and every roll. Just one round of this thrilling game and you will be caught up in Qwixx-fever!

SKYJO

The goal is to collect as few points as possible over the course of several turns as after every round every player’s points are counted and added to his score. As soon as a player reaches 100 points or more the player with the fewest points wins. Collecting the fewest points means to look for low or even negative numbers.

Rummikub

With more than 55 million units sold, Rummikub is one of the world’s best-selling and most-played games! It’s really no surprise that Rummikub is so popular – it has all the elements that make a great game: it’s easy to learn and fast moving, it’s different every time it’s played, it combines luck and strategy, and it changes quickly so every player has a chance to win until the very end.

Think Fun Rush Hour

My family went on a lot of road trips when I was a kid, and my brothers and I loved playing this game to keep ourselves entertained. Rush Hour is a logic game that uses cars and trucks on a grid to create a puzzle. Challenge cards are included to show you how to set up the puzzle. The goal of the game is to free the red car from the traffic jam. 

Rush Hour is a 1 person game recommended for ages 8+.

Rush Hour

GeoLogic

Geologic is a one-person world-changing puzzle game. With 60 challenges from beginner to expert, this game is fun for the whole family. The game is recommended for ages 8+ but my 7 year old was able to complete the beginner challenges.

Geologic includes a 30 sided Planet Core and 14 biome tiles. The challenge cards show a picture of how to set up the Planet Core to begin and has a list of which tiles are needed to complete the puzzle. The back of the cards show the answer to the puzzle.

If you’re a fan of logic puzzles, this game is for you!

Geologic

Gravity Maze

This game is just for one person and has three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The player has to arrange towers of holes and slides to get the marble to the target square. It comes with a gray board and three marbles in case you lose some of your marbles. Don’t do that. 

So how it works is that you choose what level you want to complete and take a card the game provides. On the front of the card is the gray board and it has the colors and placement of the red target block and one other color block that is used in the puzzle. On the bottom are the colors of the other blocks used in that particular puzzle – the trick is that you need to figure out where to place the other blocks in order that the marble slides to the target, red block successfully. If you Google how to play the game, ThinkFun has a YouTube video that explains it better than I am.

We played this with kids ages 8, 9, and 11 years old and they all loved it. I tried it also as an adult and it’s fantastic because it’s one of those games where you have to focus on the puzzle and nothing else. Gravity Maze is especially great for kids who like to play by themselves, for kids who love problem-solving, and for kids who are probably future engineers.


Do a Puzzle Together! Family Puzzles Kids Love

Puzzles are great for kids, teens, and adults because everyone can work on them together. So, these puzzles are getting their own category.

Ravensburger Star Wars The Madalorian Puzzle

This Ravensburger Mandalorian Star Wars Puzzle is great for any Star Wars fan, even the hard-to-buy for teens. The high-quality pieces fit together easily. The whole family can enjoy putting this one together!

Minecraft Ravensburger Puzzle

The puzzle has 300 XL puzzle pieces and will create a picture of a Minecraft scene. It says that the puzzle is for ages 9+ but younger kids who are good at puzzles will have no problems putting the puzzle together. The puzzle pieces are pretty large and fit together perfectly. They are also smooth and easy to handle – I don’t know why I like this but I do. 

If you enjoy both puzzles and Minecraft, you’ll love this one.


Games for Teens: Family Games Teens Will Love

Escape the Room: Murder in the Mafia

If you are feeling bored with some of your usual games, then you should check out an escape room game! ThinkFun’s Escape the Room games are essentially escape rooms in a box. They come cleverly assembled in the box in such a way that you only have to follow a few simple instructions to pop the room up before you’re ready to start looking for clues and playing the game.

Murder in the Mafia is ThinkFun’s newest Escape the Room game, and it’s designed for ages 14 and up, and 1 to 3 players. Solve the office crime scene clues to find the murderer before they find you. This is a cooperative game and there really is no limit on the number of players. But more than 3 people may have some difficulty crowding around the room to find evidence and solve clues. My kids ages 9-14 all participated with my husband and I and we all enjoyed this one.

Throughout the game the story booklet guides you through each chapter as you solve the clues, and see if you can determine who is the murderer. And if you get stuck you can go online for additional clues and assistance.

While other escape room games require you to mark up or cut up game materials, ThinkFun Escape the Room games can be reset to be played again. While you might not want to play it again as you already will know the solution, the game can be passed on for someone else to enjoy.

Additional ThinkFun Escape the Room titles include:

EXIT Games

Another fun version of an escape room board game are EXIT games. You can spread these materials out and a larger group can work to solve these games. Clues are on cards, in booklets, and hidden in the strangest places. The card and solution wheel systems help you get hints if you’re stuck and also guide you from clue to clue. These games can only be played once as solving them often requires cutting or marking up game pieces, but they are worth it for a fun afternoon with family and friends.

EXIT Games: The Abandoned Cabin

Echoes: Audio Mystery Game

Download a free app for Echoes: Audio Mystery Game and use it to scan the cards and listen to the audio hints. Put them together in the right sequence to unlock each chapter with additional story clues. Finally, use the clues to put the story into the right order. This one is a great family teamwork game. The sounds are a little creepy, and the clues require listening carefully. But don’t worry if you get lost, the app can give you clues if you’re stuck!

Wingspan

Wingspan is such a fun game to play if you have a nature lover or even just a teenager who loves strategy as they build their flock of birds. We played the original game, which came with North American birds, each with a quick fact on the bottom of the card that had me geeking out a little. If you like the game, you can buy different expansion packs for birds around the world.

The game has you focus on your own flock of birds, so there is less of a direct competition between players, though, of course, you want to earn points and have the most by the end of the game. The ultimate goal of the game is to have the most points, and you can gain those points by laying eggs, drawing new birds, and gathering food. Plus, you get to roll the dice through an awesome cardboard-built birdhouse that is provided.

Munchkin

A classic deck card game in our home that has been played at least 100 times over the years is Munchkin. It’s an awesome game with silly classes, monsters you’re trying to defeat, and a lot of strategy against your opponents. With curses, combats against monsters, and the opportunity to take your opponent down, there is a lot going on as you try to reach your 10 points.

The cards are the absolute best because they are hilarious and weird. With item cards like “Boots of running really fast” and “pointy hat of power”, your kids will love the silliness. There are some pretty great pictures too. Plus, they get to defeat monsters (or be killed by one if they can not defeat it, but that’s where you can come in to help save their character).

The game is recommended for ages 10 and up and can accommodate 3-6 players, with an average playtime of 1.5 hours. Munchkin has tons of additions, expansion packs, and options to make it creative and more fun over time, so you will never get bored!

What’s your family’s favorite board or card game to play together?


Educational Gifts for kids, and educational gifts for Christmas

Check out these 31+ Educational Gifts so you can put a new skill under the Christmas tree this year!