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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

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!


10 Ways to Celebrate Your Child’s Birthday Around the Holidays

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Does your child have a birthday near Christmas? Have you found yourself celebrating a birthday sitting around a Christmas tree in the living room? How can you celebrate a Christmas birthday or a birthday near Christmas and still make your child feel special? What’s the secret to making December birthdays special amid all the Christmas presents and Christmas decorations? Should we add birthday decorations to the party, too? What do birthday traditions look like mixed in with Christmas?

If you are looking for ways to celebrate birthdays near holidays, you’ve come to the right place.

Celebrate a Christmas birthday

Make Your Child’s Birthday Memorable

The holidays are usually a busy time of the year for everyone, which can make birthdays near Christmas difficult to celebrate with a group.. From traveling out of town, having family over, decorating, cooking, and wrapping presents, it seems like your ‘to-do’ list just doesn’t end. Throwing a birthday party for your child into the mix can make things even more overwhelming. Nevertheless, it’s important to make your child’s one special day of the year, just that…special!

Here are some ideas to help make the day all about them, and others you may want to avoid.

Plan Something Special Instead Of A Party

Sometimes, all the planning in the world won’t allow you to plan a birthday party that your child’s friends can attend. An actual party isn’t always necessary. Your child will be excited to have a day dedicated just to them with only having their immediate family involved.

Take them out on a day that works for your family, let them pick a fun place they would like to go (or surprise them). Try an entertainment center with games, bowling, or laser tag. Let them choose which restaurant you will go to for lunch or dinner, and take them out to pick out their birthday gift. This is an easy option that requires little planning but still makes your child feel special.

Birthday party at Christmas

Throw A Holiday Time Birthday Celebration: Close to Christmas Birthday Party Tips

Figure out the best timing

If you want to do a party, schedule the party a week before or a week after your child’s actual birthday. This is especially a good idea if your child’s birthday falls on the same date as the holiday. If your child’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving, consider celebrating the weekend before. The weekend after Thanksgiving tends to be a busy time for most people, as they are traveling home, bidding their holiday guests farewell, or starting their holiday shopping. If your child’s birthday falls on Christmas, consider scheduling their party even earlier than one week ahead. Some families travel for the holidays and head out of town as soon as the school winter holiday begins.

Get invites sent out early

If you plan on inviting friends and/or family to your child’s birthday party, give as much notice as possible. At any other time of the year, a one to two weeks’ notice would suffice; however, with people traveling or scheduling family holiday photos, it’s a good idea to give as much notice as possible.  This will also help if a majority of your potential attendees can’t make it to your party date- and gives you the opportunity to change it to a date that works for both you and your guests.

Decorate a ‘birthday only’ room

If you plan on having your child’s birthday party at home, and you have already decorated your house for the holidays, designate a room that is free of holiday decorations. Have your child pick a theme, whether it is a specific charter or color scheme, and decorate with balloons and streamers- away from all the snow globes and Christmas trees. Party City, offers a variety of themed birthday party supplies throughout the entire year.

Celebrate their half birthday

The holiday months tend to have cooler weather, so it may leave limited options for ways to celebrate your child’s birthday. Consider celebrating their ‘half birthday’ in the summer. The warmer weather opens up more outdoor options to celebrate, and schedules may be easier to coordinate since children are on school vacation. Try a local waterpark. You can still have a cake and sing happy birthday with the family on their real birthday, but wouldn’t it be a nice surprise for your child to celebrate their birthday by splashing around in the pool?

birthday gifts

Choosing The Right Gift: Birthday Presents Dos and Don’ts

Don’t use holiday wrapping paper

You may already have a closet full of holiday wrapping paper, and how convenient would it be to just grab part of a leftover roll and wrap your child’s birthday present in it? Although convenient, something as simple as ‘Happy Birthday’ wrapping paper can help separate their birthday from the holiday.

Don’t give holiday-themed gifts

During the holidays, themed or special addition toys often become available. As much as you think giving your child an Elf on the Shelf might be a good idea (since you need to buy one anyway), stick to something that doesn’t need to be put away after the holidays are over.

Get seasonal appropriate gifts

With keeping the last recommendation in mind, it’s important to stick to gifts that your child can use now. If their birthday is in December, don’t get them a blow-up swimming pool and slide for the backyard or diving sticks for the pool. While you want to separate the holiday from their birthday, it’s a good idea to get them something they can enjoy without having to wait to use it.

Skip the joint birthday/holiday gift

It sounds like an easy thing to do- two birds, one stone. It may seem like the opportune time to get your child that expensive gift they have been asking for, and make it a combined birthday/holiday gift. While it may be exciting for them for a moment, it takes out some of the fun and surprises that birthdays and holidays deliver to children.

Embrace The Holiday Birthday

As stressful as they can be, the holidays really are a fun time of the year. A holiday theme may not be a bad idea after all, if your child likes the idea. Have a birthday party where your child and their friends build gingerbread houses or decorate cookies, which they get to take home instead of a goody bag. Play ‘pin the nose on the snowman or make homemade ornaments. Michaels arts and crafts store is a great place to get seasonal crafting kits for children to make it easy to plan holiday crafts for the party. While this might not be something you want to do every year to celebrate their birthday, it’s a fun way to mix it up and embrace the holiday season!

Planning a birthday party? Check out the Kidding Around Guide to Birthdays in Greenville and Spartanburg, SC

5 Things to Do With All That Candy: Halloween Candy Buyback Program: Greenville, SC & More

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On the search for “candy buyback near me”? Did your kids bring home too much Halloween candy? On the search for “candy buyback near me”? Don’t worry! We have a couple of dental offices in Greenville to take that candy and exchange it for something that won’t result in a sugar overload or rot on their teeth. And we have a few more creative ideas for using or giving away that candy.

Halloween candy buyback at a local dentist in Greenville, South Carolina

What to Do With All That Candy!

Trade It for Money “Candy Buyback Near Me” at Greenville, SC Dentists

This is a good way to teach kids about ways that money works. There are a few local dentists where kids can bring in their candy by the pound and get a few dollars. This can work at home also where kids exchange their candy for money. 

Palmetto Family Orthodontics

Palmetto Family Orthodontics will buy leftover candy for $1 a pound and then donate it to local charities and to help by supporting our troops overseas.
Times: Verdae Office: November 6, 8 & 9, 2023 during business hours⁠
East Faris Office location: November 7th, 2023
Location: 501 Verdae Boulevard, Greenville

Julian Thomas DMD Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Bring in your wrapped Halloween candy to be shipped to troops overseas through the Operation Gratitude program! In previous years, the practice has exchanged candy for cash or prizes.
Times: Candy can be dropped off in early November 2023, but contact the dentistry directly for exact dates and times.
Location: 1141 East Butler Road Greenville | 864.676.0046

Greer Pediatric Dental

They will buy your Halloween candy for $1 per pound, up to five pounds.
Times: Thursday, November 2nd until noon, Monday – Tuesday, November 6th and 7th, 2023 during business hours (closed for lunch from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm).
Location: 3115 Brushy Creek Road, Greer

Feed the Switch Witch

I had zero idea what this was until several readers suggested it. The Switch Witch is basically giving your kid(s) a small gift in exchange for the majority of the candy they get. This can be especially helpful if your child has an allergy – they can still collect candy but get a cool gift instead of a boatload of stuff that makes them sick (side note: look for homes with teal pumpkins when trick or treating with a child who has allergies – these homes will have non-candy items. This is what my family does and it’s always a hit)

These are a few ideas of how to make the Switch Witch work for your family:

“I tell my kiddo that the switch a witch eats up the candy and in exchange will use her magic to make him a gift. In our house, he gets to pick five pieces of candy and the rest he can give to the switch a witch with the idea that the more candy she gets the bigger gifts she can make him. I typically do a costume, art supplies, or legos. About the same size or a bit smaller than a birthday present you buy for a kid’s birthday.”

Let Them Eat It

This is an option I know a lot of parents do which I had never even considered: let the kids eat as much candy as they want. Just go ahead and jump in the deep end. Our readers say this option essentially gives kids too much of a good thing and they are so sick of candy after Halloween. 

These are a few suggestions from our readers on how to handle this option:

“I let my daughter eat whatever she wants. It’s her candy and she won’t eat to the point of making herself sick, so I let her learn what her body wants and stop when she’s done (which is usually pretty quickly because she’s really good about that).”

“My son eats what he wants, but the novelty wears off within a day. Then we have old candy come Valentine’s Day.”

“If you’re not letting your kids go into a diabetic coma just one night of the year, are you really letting them enjoy childhood? Lol!! Mine usually get sick of it before long and I hide it in a bag and pass some out here and there and take a bunch myself lol.”

Halloween Candy Donations

Some families will let their kids choose a handful of their favorite candy and then donate the rest to send overseas to the military or use it in care packages. Candy donations can be easily shipped, and your kids can help decorate the box. You can contact your local Ronald McDonald House to see if they are taking Halloween candy donations for the families who are staying there. Or, try donating through Treats for Troops.

Use the Candy for Christmas or Gingerbread Houses

Other parents will sneakily steal some of the candy and reuse it for Christmas stockings. And not-so-sneaky parents will use leftover candy for candy houses or for use when they construct Gingerbread houses during Christmastime. 

“Let them have a little the night of and maybe the next day, and save the rest to divvy up into the Christmas stockings.”

“Let them eat it and then whatever is left in December is used on our gingerbread houses.”

What do you do with the tons of Halloween candy your kids bring home?

If you hear of any more candy buy-back programs in the Greenville area, please let us know in the comments!

Have we been trick-or-treating wrong all these years?

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An Amble with Gamble: Stories from the parenting trenches

Is your family getting ready for the Halloween tradition of door-to-door trick-or-treating? As you prepare, here’s a humorous reflection of previous Halloweens and the trick-or-treat experience.

-Come take a stroll down memory lane with me-

Another Halloween come and gone.

Halloween Chili- a new kind of trick or treat

I definitely would not put myself in the Halloween enthusiast category. I mean, I like dressing up my kids and eating 3 Musketeers as much as any human being should but hanging skeletons from my front porch and pretending to be an axe- murderer is just not my idea of a good time. To each his own, though.

I managed to avoid Halloween festivities for the last six years, but this year, the kids were adamant that they wanted to pick out costumes and join in the neighborhood excitement.

Fine.

But why do kids always choose the costume that suddenly doesn’t come in their size? My 8 year-old wanted to be Ironman which, to daft little me, seemed fairly mainstream. How hard could it be?

I could find every other superhero costume known to the galaxy in a size medium, but not Ironman. No.

One Halloween Express and two Walmarts later, we finally tracked down a size medium Ironman costume. The Lord was testing me. I don’t know if you’ve ever traversed a Halloween Express and two Walmarts in one afternoon with four children under 8 years old, but let me assure you, it’s above your paygrade.

Children in costume
My children looking despondent pre-trick-or-treating. Don’t let their expressions fool you. They were wildly excited.

My 3-year-old girl had her own hopes and dreams of being Spidergwen for Halloween. For the record, I was thrilled by her decision. The character of Spidergwen is pretty boss if you ask me, so my daughter’s spunky, ballet-dancing self would have been the perfect Gwen Stacy!

Alas. Let me tell you what I found: the only companies manufacturing toddler-size Spider Gwen costumes also seem like the type of factories heavy into human trafficking and slavery. I’m not even joking around here. The locations were highly suspect.

While I now realize that probably any costume I purchased from the big box store came from one of those locations, I couldn’t, in good conscience, order directly from the operation. There went my poor girl’s aspirations.

Don’t fret, though. She settled on an Elsa costume two sizes too small for her at Walmart—as one does—and could not have been more excited on Halloween night with her arms wedged into tiny glitter mesh tubes up to her elbows. Kind of reminded me of a burst can of biscuits, but in the cutest way possible.

While the five of us were out enjoying the cool night and gusty winds, we had the unique experience of being offered chili at two locations.

Chili. Like the soup with beans.

Now, I love chili—heavy on the sour cream, please—and it is certainly weather-appropriate this time of year, but how on earth am I supposed to consume a bowl of chili while keeping my children out of the street? This was all new to me. Do you just ladle it into the bucket? What’s the protocol here? Seemed unconventional, at best.

So what did I do? I took the ding-dang chili, of course!

And wolfed down three to four bites on each porch. Trust me on this one. WORTH THE CHALLENGE. While the threat of being poisoned by strychnine was certainly there, I took that risk because chili should never be declined.

Many a dad was nursing their own bowl of chili, so I was in good company—just missing a full beard and camo jacket. That Piedmont Life, I tell you. Several mothers looked at me like I was an imposter, but I suppose that comes with the territory when you’re clearly enjoying yourself with four happy, costumed kids in tow. We are a rare breed.

At any rate, the real case on the chili front is that I was so full when we arrived home that I didn’t eat a single piece of Halloween candy! Could this be because I had to give baths and put four kids on speed to bed? Highly probable. Could it also be that I hid the Halloween buckets in an inconvenient place upon our arrival home? Likely answers all around!

But I’m putting all my coins into the chili bucket–the unsung hero of Halloween in South Carolina. Friends, whip out those crockpots and styrofoam cups and be the toast of the town.

Chili 2022 for Office. Don’t even bother with cilantro. No one wants that when there are Reese’s Cups to be had.

Still Making Your Halloween Plans?

Everything You Need to Know About Cloth Diapering in Greenville

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Are you thinking about cloth diapering? There are many benefits to cloth diapering and great resources in Greenville to help you along the way. Today local mom Kristina Hernandez is telling us why she loves cloth diapers. She’s also sharing her tips and tricks on where to buy cloth diapers, how to wash them, and more! 

Information about cloth diapering

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband casually mentioned we should look into cloth diapering. I was mildly appalled. Didn’t they do that in my grandparent’s generation – and wasn’t it awful? My husband, being from Central America, was actually more familiar with cloth diapering than myself since it’s more common there, so he figured why not look into it. And oh man, did I look into it!

Turns out that there is an entire subculture of cloth diaper enthusiasts who can’t wait to get their hands on more fluff for their little baby’s bottoms. For a multitude of reasons, we ended up cloth diapering our kids and it has been more fun than I could have imagined.


Ultimate Guide for New Parents

Don’t miss our Huge Guide to All Things Baby Near Greenville, SC.


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10 Parent-Hacks for Amazing & Memorable Trips to the Farm this Fall

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Want to make sure your family trip to the farm is amazing? Farms in the fall are perfect places for family fun and lots of memory-making. But, bringing your whole crew anywhere can sometimes be a little stressful, right? So, we have some tips to help you make your fall farm trip easy with nothing but fun and happy faces.

Parent tips for farm trips
Famoda Farm

Wear the correct clothes.

A farm is a great opportunity to take some adorable, matching farm-themed photos, but it’s important to realize that it is a farm. Farms have dirt, fire ants, and typically a lot of sun. Cute smocked outfits, warm “fall” clothes, and open-toed shoes might look great in photos but may not be comfortable, practical attire for having fun at the farm.

If your main goal is photos, consider either outfit choices that are comfortable and can get dirty or take your photos and schedule another visit for full farm activities.

We recommend wearing:

  • Clothes that can get dirty
  • Closed-toed shoes that are comfortable for walking such as tennis shoes or boots
  • Layers, even on cooler fall days it can feel really hot in the sun especially if you spend an hour wandering in a corn maze.
  • A hat or sunglasses if it’s a sunny day
Moo Cow farms cow cuddling
Moo Cow Farms

Bring snacks and water.

Most farms will allow you to eat on the property or at your car. Some serve food, but not all. Most do not have a place to refill water bottles.

We recommend making sure you have plenty of food and water.

There will likely only be porta-potties at the farm so plan accordingly.

Wear your sunscreen. It can get hot in October in our region.

Apple slingshot
Apple slingshot at McLadke Orchards

Go over farm etiquette before getting out of the car.

It’s important to go over basic farm rules with your kids if they are unfamiliar with farm etiquette. Farming is hard work and it’s important to respect the farmer’s property.

Follow all farm signs and rules.

Be sure to treat plants with respect. Only pick what you plan to pay for and don’t destroy farm property such as forming new paths in a corn maze.

Don’t throw produce such as pumpkins or corn unless it’s part of a farm-approved game.

Watch your kids closely. Farm equipment can be dangerous.

Don’t feed animals unless signs give permission to feed them and only feed animals food that is approved by the farm.

If you have the opportunity to touch or hold animals, remind your children to be gentle.

Feeding animals at Goat Daddy's Farm
Goat Daddy’s Farm

Be prepared before you get lost in the corn maze.

Corn mazes are fun but they also are in direct sunlight and involve a lot of wandering around trying to figure your way out.

Your kids will likely insist on picking all of the turns which often results in walking in circles for hours.

  • Make sure your preschooler/toddler understands that they have to stay with you because losing a child in a corn maze is more excitement than most of us want when visiting a farm.
  • Take a photo of the corn maze before you enter. That way if you get lost and tired, you can still find your way out.
  • If all else fails, follow the wall-hugger trick.
  • Make sure you have your water with you.
  • Go to the bathroom before your start the maze.
  • If your kids are little, they usually won’t know the difference between the entrance and exit so you can always have a short visit into the corn maze and just exit out the way you came before everyone gets tired.
Corn maze
Denver Downs

Pick the right farm.

If you want to pick apples or pumpkins, make sure the farm lets you pick them before arriving. Some orchards and farms only sell pre-picked produce.

Some farms allow you to enjoy all the activities for one price, whereas others charge per activity. If your main event is picking apples, paying once for the jumping pillow or hay ride might be the right choice. If your main activity is playing at the farm, consider one with an all-inclusive price.

Denver Downs Slide
Denver Downs

Check to see what forms of payment they accept.

Some of the farms in the region only accept cash or check. Make sure you are prepared.

Go Teal! Why You Should Join the Teal Pumpkin Project

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Curious about the teal pumpkins you see popping up around town? Read on to learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project. We’ve got suggestions for families wanting to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween. 

One in 13 children in the United States has some kind of food allergy so it’s likely you know a child that has one or maybe your own child is part of the food allergy community. Food allergies can be everything from minor allergic reactions to life-threatening emergencies, so parents, family, friends, and teachers are often vigilant of food labels.

It’s so sad to see the disappointment a child living with food allergies may feel when confronted with a food that irritates him and everyone else gets to enjoy it. No one wants that to happen to trick-or-treaters, but sadly allergen-safe food trinkets and treats are not common on the Halloween scene.

Halloween can be an especially challenging time for these kids and their families as schools have parties with candy that are off-limits, stores are filled with treats that are forbidden and all their friends are trick-or-treating and filling their baskets with chocolate and candies that contain threatening allergens.

But, we can help change the trick-or-treat experience for children living with food allergies by offering some safer trick-or-treat options. Include small items in addition to candy, and display a teal pumpkin letting families know that you have options for their child.

This article includes:
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Non-food Ideas for Trick or Treaters

Teal Pumpkin Project

For all the ways to celebrate Halloween in Greenville and the Upstate, don’t miss our HUGE Guide to Halloween Celebrations and Trick-or-Treat in Greenville and Spartanburg.

Enter the Teal Pumpkin

In 2014, the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), came up with an idea to help make Halloween safer for these kids and less stressful for their parents.

They asked people across the country to swap out their candy and treats for non-food trinkets to hand out to trick-or-treaters. To tell the little pumpkins, astronauts, and goblins that their house was safe for kids with food allergies, FARE suggested painting a pumpkin teal and putting it outside for everyone to see.

First of all, this is a great idea and a wonderful way to include these children who may feel left out otherwise.

Secondly, teal is a pretty color and easily recognizable, even in the dim twilight of Halloween trick-or-treating.

teal-pumpkin-project

Grateful Parents & Kids

Homes that choose to paint their pumpkins teal elicit a huge sigh of relief from parents who are out with their little ones who are allergic to some types of food, including nuts, seeds, or dairy, many of which are found in traditional Halloween candy.

“Trick or treating has been a difficult holiday to participate in with our son, who has several food allergies. Last year, he was able to only eat five candies out of his entire bucket,” explained Emile Dowd, a mom of two adorable boys and owner of WonderLight Photography in Greenville.

“The Teal Pumpkin Project has made it a lot easier for our little guy to enjoy and participate in trick-or-treating alongside his friends. It’s fun to see him so excited when we come to a house with a teal pumpkin and we’ve been really grateful for those that take the time to include all children! Hopefully, more and more people decide to participate each year so that kids with allergies can feel included in the festivities.”

FARE offers some ideas to get the word out in your own neighborhood about the Teal Pumpkin Project like putting up flyers (you can download premade ones at FARE’s website), making a homemade sign that sits with your teal pumpkin to help explain it, and posting about it on social media using the hashtag #tealpumpkinproject. Be sure to post about it as well in your neighborhood Facebook page or website.

Teal Pumpkin Project Ideas: Non-Food Things for Trick-or-Treaters

When food treats and candy is not an option, try this list of trick-or-treat alternatives for kids. Teal pumpkin families can give out:

Stickers
Glow-sticks
Bouncy balls
Rubber stamps
Pencils
Playdough
Mini-crayon sets
Puzzles
Straws
Toothbrushes
Finger puppets
Bracelets
Adjustable rings
Little dinosaur toys
Sticky hands
Bubbles

The Oriental Trading Company even has a page of Halloween novelty toys great for people who want to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

The list is endless. Be creative. Put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep and provide treats for children for whom candy is not an option. Maybe next year, the teal pumpkin homes will be known for giving out the coolest things for Halloween.

Do you have a child in your family or on your block who would be excited to see teal pumpkins this Halloween?

Pregnancy and Infant Loss: You Have Permission to Break the Silence

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Did you know October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? This loss is more common than most people realize. Local mom and KAG Guest Contributor, Tanika Dillard, is sharing her story of infant and pregnancy loss with us today in order to raise awareness and let others know they are not alone.

This article includes:
2023 Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Events in the Upstate

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Parents Reveal Their Secrets to Easy School-Night Dinners

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Are you struggling to find easy school-night dinner ideas and tips and tricks? With a schedule this year that allows only a small slot of time for family dinner, I was struggling myself to figure out how to ensure we have a family dinner with as little work as possible. I asked our Kidding Around readers for tips on easy meal planning and easy dinners, and they delivered with a great list for you of weekday dinner ideas, ways of saving time in the kitchen, and more.

This article includes:
Easy Meals to Cook for Dinner: Recipes and ideas from our readers
Tips: Make School Night Dinners Easier!

East school night dinners

14 Easy Dinner Ideas for School Nights

Busy school night? The answer to “what should I make for dinner?” is right here. Our readers chimed in with a list of their go-to easy meals to create a list of tried and true meal ideas that really work for families on school nights.

1. “For vegan/vegetarian friends…Sauté onions, celery, and carrots. Then add zucchini, yellow squash, tomato sauce, and a can of cannellini beans. Add salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings to taste. Simmer until zucchini is tender. While this is simmering roast a spaghetti squash on 400 in the oven. This will take about 45 min. Serve mixture over squash and with garlic bread.” – Kristen Barnett

2. “Chicken and Rice casserole. Mix 1 can Cream of Mushroom (or Golden Mushroom) soup, 1 can French Onion Soup, 1 can water, 1 cup white rice. Put the mixture I’m into a 9 by 13 greased dish and too with chicken pieces… thighs and legs with skin on is the most tasty. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.. take cover off and cook another 30 minutes. This goes well with green beans and a fruit… and rolls” -Jo Ann Hammel

3. “While the weather’s warm one of our go-to meals is chicken, veggie, pineapple kebabs with either a garlic herb rice pilaf or Fresh Market orzo salad. We make the kebabs ourselves, using the linked marinade and loading the skewer with chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, and fresh pineapple chunks. Assemble and put on to marinate the night before and you have an easy meal.” -Julie McArdle

4. “This is especially a kiddo pleaser, but my husband likes these, too. Use thick sliced bologna and pan-sear it on both sides. Put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, put a scoop of mashed potatoes on top of each slice of bologna and top that with a slice of cheese. Broil til cheese is melted. Serve with a roll and salad, and you’ve got dinner in under 20.” -Elaine Williams

5. “Sweet potato enchiladas. Cook sweet potatoes in insta pot while cooking ground beef (turkey) with a yellow onion and poblano pepper (both diced) along with minced garlic and 1 small can enchilada sauce. Open up your sweet potato and put ground beef mixture inside, and top with avocado, sour cream, black olives. Delicious and healthy!” -Regina Earwood

6. “Sheet pan meal! Roast kielbasa, broccoli, and potatoes. Prep is so quick!” -Katie Hottel

7. “Make big pots of curries or chilis on Sunday afternoons and it will last you until Wednesday and the chili/curry gets better each day! Mix up the sides for variety!” Kate Fowler

8. “This is a go to meal that is super easy to make but packs a lot of flavor…We call it ‘hamburger soup.’ ” -Kristen Barnett

Hamburger Soup
1lb of ground beef
4-5 potatoes peeled and diced
1 small onion diced
5-6 carrots washed, peeled if desired, cut into thick slices
1-2 stalks of celery, diced
1 32oz can of diced tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1/2 32oz carton of beef broth

Sauté onions, celery, and carrots until onions are translucent. Add ground beef. Once beef is browned, add potatoes, canned tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Simmer for about a hour or until potatoes are fork tender. To make it super easy, you can use canned potatoes and carrots and frozen onions. Serve with yummy corn bread.

Corn bread
2 cups of white or yellow cornmeal NOT cornmeal mix
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cook in heated 10-12” cast iron skillet on 400 for 25-30 min or until top is golden brown.

9. “Burritos or burrito bowls. Protein(s) of beans and/ or meat, and then whatever else we have around that might be good. Tonight this included rice, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream or Greek yogurt, salsa, sautéed peppers & onions, sliced radishes, cheese, and some jalapeño.” -India Menon

10. “I make whole family packs of chicken at once, alternating grilled vs pressure cooker, and make several meals over a few days. Grilled fajita chicken gets thrown into Cajun chicken pasta the next night. Baked chicken goes into tacos, soups, tikka sauce, bbq sauce etc.” -Jaci Brush

11. “Cook chicken tenders seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Put them over bagged salad mix with cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, olives, sliced cucumbers, cheese, croutons, sunflower seeds and favorite dressing! Easy and healthy!” -Suzi Suloff

12. “Garlic roasted chicken and I use the drippings to make chicken rice pilaf with roasted garlic puree.” -Danielle Vale

13. “I use my instant pot for easy, quick meals. Pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken tacos, easy soup recipes. My kids also love meatloaf which I make in a muffin pan which cuts cook time down to 20-30 minutes.” -Brandi Crowe

14. “Chili in the instant pot then use leftovers with some cheese and sour cream to make burritos next day or later that week. Loaded baked potatoes are also a hit veggies and meat and cheese everyone is happy. Another easy one is big bit or beef roast and cook slow in crock pot with dry rub. It makes so much that I do rice bowls one night and later in week I warm it up and add bbq sauce and serve it with buns. We also love butter chicken. It’s easy and sooo yummy.” -Crystal Acker

Tips for Making School-Night Dinners Easier

School Night Dinner tips

These tips include:
Meal Planning
Meal Prep in Advance
Cook Extra Food
Take-Home Meals and Services

#1: Even If You Hate Meal Planning There Are Lots of Ways to Make It Easier

Taking time over the weekend to look at your schedule, plan your meals, and then to prep ingredients can really speed up dinner time during the week.

If you struggle with meal planning, you can subscribe to a meal planning service. Some services also include prep plans or connections to grocery pick-up services. I’ve used:

  • Fresh20 which was very helpful in that the meals used a lot of similar ingredients and there was a preparation list. This meal service utilizes a set pantry list which makes shopping easier and focuses on fresh ingredients.
  • Emeals which made it easy to switch plans or substitute out meals. It also connected with shopping apps like Instacart. My one issue with this meal planning service was a lot of processed ingredients were incorporated which made meals more expensive and often less healthy. Also, be sure to read the terms and conditions as you may need to call to cancel.
  • You can also find free weekly meal plans on the internet such as Mashup Mom’s free menu plans that only include ingredients found at Aldi. Her plans also focus on keeping shopping costs down.
  • If you prefer to DIY, an app like Paprika will allow you to store your recipes from the internet and create a meal plan and shopping list.

#2: Meal Prepping Takes an Hour or Two But Can Save Lots of Time During the Week

Rice: Especially, if you eat brown rice which can take an hour to cook, go ahead and cook your rice ahead of time so that it can just be warmed up.

Vegetables: Go ahead and cut up any vegetables for dinner meals that won’t go bad in the fridge. You can also prep a container of snacking vegetables at the same time to encourage healthy snacking and lunch packing during the week.

Meats: Cook up any meats such as ground beef that can be pre-cooked and/or frozen ahead of time. It’s always great to have some chicken or ground beef in the freezer for a fast meal of tacos. I often will cook a family-size package of chicken in the Instapot and then use my Kitchen Aid Mixer with the mixing attachment to shred it. The chicken can then be frozen in 2 cup bags for soups, casseroles, and tacos.

Beans: Make beans ahead of time in the crock pot or in the Instant Pot and just put them in the fridge for whatever recipes you need them for doing the week. Dry beans are so much cheaper than canned beans as well.

#3: Cook meals that can double as two or more meals.

A large pot of chili also makes a great baked potato topping on the following night.

Leftover taco seasoned meat or beans can also be used in burritos, burrito bowls, salads, nachos, quesadillas, and enchiladas.

Curries, tomato sauces, chilis, and stews often improve in flavor after a night in the fridge and make excellent leftovers. Switch out sides or types of pasta or rice to add variety.

Grilled chicken can be eaten in sandwich wraps, in pita bread with Greek toppings, or as a topping for salad.

#4: Consider Take Home Meal Kits and Other Services

One way that I keep my family meals simpler is by budgeting for one or more take-home meal kits on busy weeks. You can check our take-out meal list for local Upstate SC options. Some of these options are family-style meals that you can put in your fridge and warm up for dinner and others are restaurant family-size takeout.

Also, check to see if your local high school or college offers family meals through their culinary school or classes.

You can also purchase meal planning services that include the ingredients for each meal along with the recipe. While these plans tend to be expensive, you can often get a highly discounted trial box (just be sure to read the fine print).

11 Ways to Get Your Family Outside in Greenville, SC

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Trying to spend more time outdoors with your family? Studies show that kids who spend time outdoors thrive socially, emotionally, and physically. We’ve got some ideas on how to help get your kids outdoors more in and around Greenville, SC.

Golly
  • Take a walk
  • Go to the playground
  • Sit outside and read
  • Play games outdoors
  • Plant something
  • Go hiking
  • Find a waterfall
  • Take school outdoors
  • Ride a bike
  • Go Geocaching
  • Be seasonal!

I love the outdoors and get really antsy if I’m inside too long. Maybe it’s my personality of just never wanting to sit still or maybe it’s my wanderlust and adventurous spirit. But no matter, the outdoors is always calling. Studies show time spent outdoors is a really great thing, too, especially in this age of very stressed kids, who start as young as first grade with standardized and high-stakes tests. It only gets harder from there as most kids strive for college and scholarships. 

Multiple studies show that kids learn better when spending more time outdoors, that schools with more tree cover performed better academically than schools without trees outside the building, that outdoor lessons are more effective than teaching inside classrooms, and that nature helps to develop self-discipline, restore focus, relieve stress, increase physical fitness and stamina, and promote social connections. 

Studies also show that kids – and adults – are spending way too much time indoors in today’s world, whether it’s work, school, video games, or social media keeping us inside. The results are sobering: kids ages 8-12 spend an average of 4-6 hours a day in front of a screen, which is 1,440 up to 2,160 hours a year. For teens, the average is up to 9 hours a day, which equals an astounding 3,240 hours a year. That’s a lot of time. Like, a lot. 

One mom saw all of this in her family and decided to start a movement called 1000 Hours Outside, which encourages families to match screen time (on the low end) with outdoor time and spend 1000 hours outdoors every year, which is a little under three hours a day. It doesn’t even matter what you do: walk your neighborhood, go to the park or playground, plant a garden, water your garden, read a book outside. Her goal was to start to make it a more normal occurence to think of going outside than staying indoors and reap the benefits of outside time. 

Fishing at Lake Jocassee
Fishing at Lake Jocassee

Greenville = Outdoor Fun

Here in the Upstate, there are no shortages of places to go to spend time outdoors. I’ve always loved the outdoors but took up a serious love of hiking since moving to Greenville several years ago. The opportunities to explore are just endless and my kids and I have had some pretty amazing adventures, which have deepened our relationships with each other and ingrained in us a love of the environment, and instilled a desire to protect and clean it up – so, all good things. 

If you need some ideas of how to take up a mentality of getting outdoors more with your family, here are 11 of them: 

Take a walk

Live in a neighborhood or near a park? Go take a walk. It’s free and doesn’t require much effort and hardly any gear besides shoes. Don’t feel like you have to go far, even just a 10-minute walk can boost mood and release pent-up energy. There are also tons of paved paths around our area if you need to take your stroller.

Go to the playground

I know packing up little kids and taking them to the playground can sometimes seem like a Herculean effort but maybe find someplace close to your home or ramp up the excitement and find a new playground to check out. 

Sit outside and read 

Bring storytime outdoors. Invite the older kids to sit outside with you and read their favorite book or listen to their favorite playaway. Get some vitamin D with little effort. 

Play a game outdoors

My kids and I have been at the Roper Mountain Science Center’s Living History Farm on some of their special event days and have played with small, wooden toys that were the simplest things ever but so fun. You don’t need to have some crazy expensive outdoor game to enjoy. It can be Twister, a card game, catch, something fun that your family likes. Other ideas our readers suggested were water balloons, tag, hide & seek, or have races.

Plant flowers or a garden

Have a little space outside? Plant a garden. Have a small pot? Plant a flower to grow indoors. Have a community garden (we have several in Greenville)? Rent a spot and plant your garden. Then spend time outside tending the garden, watering it, and reaping your harvest. 

Go hiking

You knew this had to be on a list I was going to write since I just love hiking. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Upstate alone and it’s easy to find one that takes into account your family’s ages and abilities. 

Bearwallow mountain
Bearwallow Mountain

Find a waterfall

There are also hundreds of waterfalls in the Upstate and throughout Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia, including several that are roadside so you don’t even need to hike if you don’t want to. 

Take school outdoors

If you homeschool, bring your books outside or to a park and work on those math problems and worksheets outdoors. One day in the spring, I took my kids, their books, and hammocks out to Falls Park and we hung the hammocks and did our work next to the river. It was awesome. If your kids are in traditional school, bring them and their homework outdoors when they get home and do it there together. 

Kids in hammocks

Ride a bike

This is great for any age. Before my kids could ride their own bikes, I pulled them in a cart along the Swamp Rabbit Trail and stopped at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe for pastries and coffee, and let my kids play in the playground there. Or just ride your bike in your neighborhood or at a park. 

Go Geocaching

Many of our readers suggested this idea – it’s basically an outdoor scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates. Read our story about geocaching locally by a local mom who does it with her kids.

Think seasonally

Every season in Greenville brings something special: berry picking and wildflower hunting in the spring, swimming and creek stomping in the summer, farm events and apple picking in the fall, and Christmas tree shopping, snow tubing, and hot chocolate in the winter. You can get outdoors every season in the Upstate!

If you need more ideas of things to do outdoors in our area, see our big Outdoor Guide. A 1000 Hours Outdoors also has a ton of fantastic printables and ideas of things to do outdoors and helps spark creative ideas of how to prioritize getting your family outdoors more. 

How do you get outdoors with your family?