Kids Pen Pal: Find A Pen Pal For Your Child

Did you have a pen pal as a child?
I did – she lived in Australia and I loved learning about her life.
Kids Pen Pal Cover

International Kids Pen Pal Group

For quite a while now, I’ve been thinking about starting a Facebook group so that parents can connect with other parents and find a pen pal for their child in another part of the world.

So, I finally did it.

Join The International Kids Pen Pal Group Here

Let’s learn about different places around the world (or even in our own country) – it’s one of my favourite things about pen pals. You can spark new conversations and new learning, just by reading a letter!

See you in the group,


7 Non-Toy Gift Ideas For Kids

It seems like many of the conversations I have with other moms lately revolve around the STUFF we are trying to get rid of.
For the past year, I’ve been on a decluttering spree and a move toward simpler, more minimalist living and for the past few years, my mind always comes back to KIDS GIFTS AND TOYS.  I try to maintain some level of control over what comes into our home (within reason), and we donate old toys on a regular basis.


I don’t know about you, but my kids don’t need much.  They play happily for hours with the simplest of things – what they really want is for someone to engage and interact with them.  I always cringe a little on the inside when I hear other parents talking about their playrooms full of toys that never get used….it feels so wasteful.
A few months ago, I started to look for creative non-toy gift ideas for kids and put together a Pinterest board with ideas that inspired me.
There are other posts out there with non-toy gift ideas for kids, but they all seem really generic, like “a zoo membership” or “a subscription”.  I wanted to come up with some really practical, creative ideas that are a little more specific. My hope is that you find these inspiring, and that you can use some of these ideas for your own gifting this year.

1. Make a DIY KIT set inspired by the child’s interests.

My niece loves to make her own cards, so this year, I decided to give her a DIY card kit. I’ve been gathering many more DIY gift kit ideas from other blogs over on the Non-Toy Gifts for Kids Pinterest board, including puppet kits, art kits, cookie kits, dramatic play kits, science kits, sewing kits, fort kits and so much more!

2. Plan an outing to pick out a special new outfit. 

We gratefully receive 95% of our kids clothing passed along from other families that we know.  For me, this is fantastic because the clothes is all in excellent condition and we save a fortune in clothing costs.  However, it means that our kids don’t go clothes shopping very often, making it a special treat.  This year, for NJ’s birthday – part of her gift was to go to the store and pick out a special “birthday outfit”.  She absolutely loved this.  I chose a store where I knew the clothing was affordable and she picked a new dress, shoes, hairband and sunglasses.

3. Choose an affordable, engaging subscription

Our favorite is Petit Mail of course.  Many subscription boxes and services are a lot of fun, but can be QUITE expensive once you add shipping costs.  Petit Mail story card subscriptions cost $6 per month for Canada and US mailing addresses (a little more for International subscribers) and inspire imagination and creative play.  Each month, read along with the adventures of Oliver + Olivia and connect as a family with science projects, nature exploration, art ideas, dramatic play and more. Ideal for ages 3 – early reader.

4. Dress Up Costumes

Dress up costumes could be store-bought or handmade.  Think hats, shirts, masks, animal tails, capes and more.  This gift could be one elaborate costume, or a whole dress-up box full of accessories.  Your gift will provide hours of imaginative, creative play.  You can find some DIY costume ideas on the Non Toy Gifts for Kids Pinterest Board

5. A custom-made piece of clothing, especially for them

Find a local dressmaker, or a maker that inspires you to make a custom piece of clothing for a child in your life.  OR, make it yourself!  This could be a dress, a hat, a costume of some sort (see number 4!), Make it into an experience that INVOLVES them in the process, not just something that you do behind the scenes.  Take them to a studio to get measured, have them pick out the colors or designs they like the best.

6. Photo or Memory Albums

Our daughter  NJ (age 5) loves looking at photos of herself when she was younger. If you have a child in your life that you spend time with and regularly take photos of, don’t underestimate the value of something like this, even for fairly young children.

7. A sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight and book or movie

Need I say more.  You could also include a coupon for a sleepover at your house, or a night of camping out in the backyard.

5 Reasons To Choose Gift Subscriptions For Kids

Our kids. They want our attention. They want us to spend time with them. They want to know we are there, close by, engaged with them.
As a full-time working outside the home mom, I feel like my time for presence is SO limited. That’s part of the reason why I created Petit Mail – a story card to read together, a link and ideas for easy activities we can do together. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with activities on the spot – it’s a little easier with a helping hand. Plus, snail mail is the MOST FUN. Don’t you agree?

Here’s a list of my Top 5 Reasons to Choose Gift Subscriptions for Kids

Reason 1
Gift subscriptions keep giving well past the initial “open”.  It is the age-old “gift that keeps on giving” when something new and fun arrives in the mailbox each month.
Reason 2
Kids LOVE to get mail. Mail with their name on it. Bright, colourful mail.  It can be a really joyful experience, especially the first time a subscription arrives.
Reason 3
During gift-giving times, especially during the holidays, there are SO. MANY. TOYS. Yes, the toys are exciting for a short period of time, but often lose their appeal quickly. Subscriptions do not add to the pile.  They offer something deeper.  See reason 4.
Reason 4
Subscriptions spark learning and imagination in a fun way. They encourage creative play and quality time spent together as a family. They are the perfect non-toy gift.
Reason 5
Subscriptions offer you the ability to give the best gift of all – your presence.  Your presence while you read together each month and your presence in the parent-child activities your subscription provides.

What Really Matters?

I get asked this question all the time
“How do you do it all”?

I’m never quite sure how to respond.

I mean, what, exactly, is “it all”?
I used to provide a somewhat lengthy response

“oh, you know, I don’t watch much TV….I have a very supportive husband who does a LOT….my house isn’t really that clean……..etc”.

Lately, I’ve changed my answer.  Now I say “you always have time for the things you put first”.  It sums up all of the above, and more.  It says everything I want to say, without having to explain myself too much, and, most importantly, it’s true.

Parenting is always a challenging undertaking.  As far as I can tell, that never stops.
There are beautiful, magical, heart-warming days, and there are days when you feel like you will never come up for air again.

Lately, I’m focusing more on the little moments with my kids. The moments that I feel I can have some control over.

These moments, the moments where I put down my technology and spent 15 minutes drawing with my daughter.
These moments, where we keep our weekends as free as possible so that we can enjoy family time together.
These moments, when the supper table is magically free from whining, stalling and other general unpleasantness and we can talk about our days.


I’m focusing here, in these moments, and it has made me a lot calmer, and a lot happier.

I’m putting quality time first.

I plan ahead, so I’m less rushed.
I schedule carefully, so we don’t overcommit.
I say no to some things, to make room for other things.
Always full of big ideas, I save many of those ideas for later.  There will be time for those things, they don’t all have to happen right now.
I try to let go when things don’t go quite according to plan.
I simplify.
I make time for reading together. For playing together, even if that means that all of the laundry doesn’t get finished today.
I make time for myself, which makes me a 100% better parent.

You always have time for the things you put first.