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Taking a Family Photo

July 15th, 2014

Family photos allow you to cherish a memory of your family dressed their best. With a few minutes and a little bit of planning, you’ll have a keepsake to remember not only important events, but how quickly your children grew.

family photo

1. Get the kids in special portrait outfits. Your children change a lot every year. Last year’s girls’ dresses or boy’s suit won’t work! Show them off in new styles, so everyone can see just how much they’ve grown up. Grandma and grandpa will appreciate the effort, and so will you, a few years down the road.

2. Say cheese! Those two words might get some smiles, but they don’t guarantee a great family photo. Even amateur photographers can get a group to take a beautiful picture, with a few goofy tricks.

Young children know how to smile, but they have a hard time putting on an expression on cue. So make it genuine, with the help of the photographer’s antics. Do a chicken dance, make some outrageous noises, or imitate the voice of their favorite cartoon. Do whatever you have to ensure some genuine smiles for your portrait.

3. Pick a time of day when your kids will be most likely to cooperate. You’ll always get a better picture before a nap, rather than after. Don’t try to rush taking a photograph if you’re late to your destination. You can always take the picture once you arrive. If the people in the picture feel stressed or anxious, it’ll show in the picture.

4. Natural lighting looks better in photographs, so take your picture outside. There is a time of day photographers refer to as the “golden hour,” shortly before dusk, when the sunlight has just started to soften. This is a great time to take pictures, and guarantees squint-free faces.

5. Take a little time to compose your portrait. You don’t have to organize your subjects strictly by height, but if you have members of the group much taller than others, try to disperse them evenly throughout the group.

You want your children to look stylish and happy, but putting too much pressure on perfection will create unnecessary stress. Pick the setting carefully, try to get the best light possible, make sure everyone is in the best mood possible – but other than that, don’t try to control too much. Kids will be kids. If you can capture them being themselves, you’ll have a photograph you’ll treasure much more than a stiff, formal portrait.

8 Picks for Kids’ Game Apps

July 7th, 2014

You know you can use your smart phone or tablet for just about anything – take a selfie, find the nearest gluten-free restaurant, help you remember the name of that song. It’s also the perfect on-the-go distraction device. Sometimes, your hands have to be on the driving wheel, and not playing peek-a-boo. That can be a stressful time for your child. Luckily, your phone or tablet is there to help. Download a variety of educational apps to keep your children happy, and always learning something new. They’re more affordable than video games, and far better for your children’s expanding craniums.

kids educational apps

PBS Kids offers a huge suite of children’s games, online and in app form. These games cover a wide range, from education to public service announcements. For instance, one game teaches children how antibodies work, taking the mystery out of vaccinations. You can sort the available apps based on your child’s age, what kind of device you own, and which subject you’d like your child to practice.

Math Ninja is extremely popular, thanks to its action-packed series of math challenges. This is one of those games they’ll want to play as their Gameboy. It comes from coolmath-games.com, a great resource for free games that can improve your child’s math skills.

Oregon Trail has truly withstood the test of time. Parents today may remember playing it themselves! Available on iTunes, this game teaches about the history of American pioneers. But your children will probably remember it as the game that taught them about consequences – one bad decision, and you’ve come down with dysentery.

If your kids enjoy Oregon Trail, try Early Jamestown, a free game that lets your children explore the 17th century settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. This is a great introduction to American History. It also comes with extensive reading material and a ton of interactive graphics.

Dr. Frankenstein’s Body Lab introduces older children to biology basics. In Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, children will learn to recognize different organs. This fast-paced game has players quickly assemble a body part puzzle.

Mad Libs has a free app for iPhones and iPads. Fill in the blanks to create your own short story. Geared at older children and tweens, this game encourages kids to learn about the different parts of a sentence, often with hilarious results.

For some beginner games, try Endless Alphabet or Match Blitz. These games are designed to help your preschool-aged children learn letters and shapes. Kids love the cute characters in Endless Alphabet, and Match Blitz is perfect for drawing your kids into the action on a long car ride.

These fun games can be perfect distractions so that when your child is dressed to the nines in a girls formal dress or boys dress suit, they are well behaved at fancy events. Let us know what your favorite apps for kids are!

5 Chores for Kids

June 30th, 2014

During college, there are two types of students: Those who do their own laundry, and those that bring it home, in big sweaty duffels, for Mom to handle. Taking care of your children doesn’t mean cleaning up all their messes. It means fostering a sense of independence, so they are confident in their ability to take care of themselves. Get them started early, so they don’t experience a shocking transition when they leave the nest.

childhood chores

These 5 chores aren’t difficult or dangerous. They build character and foster a sense of self-reliance.

1. Putting the silverware away

Step 1 – Remove the knives! Then, get your little one up on a stool so they can reach the silverware drawer. Hand them the basket of cutlery, fresh out of the dishwasher, and demonstrate how you match the little spoons with the little spoons, the big spoons with the other big spoons, and so on. This is a great task for children working on their shape-recognition.

2. Setting the table

This classic childhood chore gets young children to participate in meal-preparation, great for children too young to trust with the hazards posed by cutting boards and stovetops. You may, of course, lose a few plates in the process. It’s a noble cause, and well-worth the sacrifice. It can also help prepare your children for times when girls formal dresses and boys dress suits are required wear.

3. Dusting and sweeping

These are great chores for sneakily turning into games. Turn on some music and start doing the sweepy dance! Dusting is great for even the youngest children. Make it a scavenger hunt – who can find where all the dust bunnies are hiding?

4. A few easy recipes

Get your kids interested in making their own meals, even before they can do any sophisticated chopping or sautéing. Young children can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or toast, or arrange some baby carrots in a lunch box. As soon as they make a few meals for themselves, have them help you with dinner prep. They can stir, shake, assemble, dip, and taste-test their way to lunchtime proficiency.

5. Putting toys away

This is the most basic of requests, and it makes such a big difference! Asking kids to take care of their toys introduces the concept of taking responsibility early in life. If you have more than one child, turn it into a game. Who can put all their toys away the fastest? On your mark, get set, go!

Summer Reading List

June 30th, 2014

7 Kids’ summer reading list must-haves

Once upon a time, your kids spent a summer learning to appreciate the wireless, battery-free fun of reading a good book in the sunshine. Make sure your kids have a great introduction to the time-honored tradition of the summer reading list. Often, schools provide prizes for a completed list. With this reading selection, the coupon for a free ice cream will be the least of their rewards.

children's summer reading

Ages 4-6

Bob Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen

Bob Books are a great tool for children still learning to sound out words. These simple stories help children sort out the difficult parts of our language – what’s with the “gh” in night? Or the “Th” in the? With Bob Books in hand, your children will be well on their way to reading on their own.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Obviously, any selection from the Dr. Seuss canon is a great choice for young children. Oh, the Places You’ll Go’s popularity spans decades. It encourages exploration, and prepares children for the ups and downs of adventure.

Ages 6-8

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein and The Random House Book of Poetry

Poetry can quickly become a controversial subject for students. Before they worry about metaphors and similes, introduce them to the joys of meter early. Many of the poems in these anthologies have funny subject matter and clever rhyme schemes. Your children will want to memorize and repeat, paving the way for better memory retention and increased powers of concentration.

Ages 8-10

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnet

The Secret Garden tells the tale of Mary Lennox, a badly behaved girl who has to move away from her life of privilege in India to a lonely, windy house in England. Then she discovers a key to a secret garden, and a new companion. She learns to get along with different people and become a thoughtful friend.

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

If you sense your child is well on their way to developing a sardonic sense of humor, The Series of Unfortunate Events will have them rolling on the floor with laughter. Throughout the adventures of three unfortunate orphans, Snicket introduces lots of new vocabulary words, followed by memorable definitions.

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

In one of Lloyd Alexander’s most popular children’s books, a young boy named Jason follows his time-traveling cat to exotic destinations throughout history. This is a great way to spark interest in a wide variety of cultures, from Ancient Egypt to the American colonies.

Happy reading! These are all great books for your son or daughter to enjoy, wearing one of our girls everyday dresses or boys white dress shirts in the summer sun!

Summer Outfits Are Here!

June 27th, 2014

Summer has arrived! Your child’s outfit of choice? A bathing suit, accessorized water wings. Equipped with a popsicle, they’re ready for anything. (When that frozen treat melts faster than they can eat it? Kid, you’re wearing a swimsuit! Just jump in the pool!)

girls summer dresses

But for weddings, church functions, and family reunions, you’d like them in something a little spiffier. What’s the best way to convince them to trade their pool noodles for bow ties and ruffles?

Kids love to play dress up. Make the outfit into a game, and you’ll have them on your side. Does your son have to wear a boy’s tuxedo? Tell him he’s batman, and give him some (pretend) high-tech gadgets to go with his impeccable suit. Your daughter could always go the well-worn princess-fairy route. Any heroine of a favorite fairy tale will do. Humor her with a sparkling tiara. We can’t help you with the fairy wings – although we suggest the invisible variety.

Boy’s summer dress shirts

Get a bright, pastel color, in a fabric that pops. A silk shirt will look especially striking in the sunlight, a perfect way to make your child stand out in outdoor pictures.

Girl’s formal dresses for summer

Easy, breezy, and lovely. If you’re in the market for girl’s semi-formal dresses, consider a girl’s dress that comes in lightweight, cotton fabric, in a bright, floral pattern. With a baby-doll cut, your daughter will feel comfortable running around at a picnic or a church event.

For a formal girl’s dress, go for a bold, summery color in fabrics like tulle and crinoline – material that will give the dress a beautiful shape without weighing your daughter down.

Girl’s and Boy’s Shoes for summer

Footwear can make or break the outfit. Once the temperature soars above 80 degrees, many get the idea that flip-flops can go with everything. These individuals, while probably well-meaning, are mistaken. If you really want your kids to look their best, don’t give up at the ankles.

That’s not to say you can’t make special provisions for summer weather. Let some air in with a girl’s formal sandal shoe, featuring a low heel for some big-girl oomph.

As with all summer clothing, it’s best to wear white, or other light colors, to keep the fabric from absorbing too much sunlight. Any of these adorable, round-toed, Velcro strap shoes for boys or girls will complete an outfit for your toddler. For older boys, get a shoe with classic style in white or tan.

And don’t forget a pair of breathable, 100% cotton socks, for girls and boys.

Affordable Summer Activities

June 24th, 2014

In fits of summertime budgeting, parents have resorted to desperate measures, aiming hoses at children in sandboxes to replicate beachside fun, without the expensive road trip. If your children have access to the internet, they’ll be hard to convince to “use their imagination.”

Don’t resort to cheap tricks. Try some activities that are actually fun and naturally inexpensive.

girls summer dresses

Amateur Zoology & Botany

Get your children a small net. In the daytime, chase around some butterflies or other insects (bees not recommended). Let your children get an up-close look at the patterns on their wings. In the evening, get a jar and use fireflies to make temporary lanterns. Help your kids learn to treat their captives gently, and return them to the wild in good condition.

Create an art project using pencil rubbings of the plant life near your house. Simply place a piece of paper on top of a leaf, or against a piece of bark, and gently rub a pencil back and forth to capture the shape and texture of the specimens. Make it a challenge to see who can collect the most samples.

Professional Water Warriors

Their uniforms are swim trunks, and their tactics are ruthless. They are the water balloon brigade. If you have a hose, you have a battlefield. Instead of a pricey (and breakable) armory of water guns, you can get balloons at the dollar store for next to nothing.

In case your children are more peace-loving, forego the water balloon battle and create a whole new species of squishy friends, using markers to draw faces on the balloons. Extend the lifespans of your inflatable pets by filling up the kiddie pool to create a watery habitat.

Easy Freezy, Lemon Squeez-y

It’s always a valuable lesson to show kids how easy it is to make normally store-bought goods at home. For way less expense than a visit to the ice cream truck, stick some Popsicle sticks in ice-cube trays filled with lemonade and pop them in the freezer. In about an hour you’ll have healthy, frozen snacks.

Quality Time

If you live in a hot climate, some days are too scorching for young children to play outside, no matter how many layers of sunblock you apply and re-apply. Instead of plopping them in front of the TV or a video game, ask them to help you run some virtual errands. Wedding season is upon us, so make sure your children have plenty of formal wear. Your girls will ooh and aah over the collections of pretty summer dresses, and your boys can help you pick out their favorite color for a spiffy new tie or a new set of boys dress shirts.


Vacationing with Kids

June 9th, 2014

“Are we there yet?” This question has echoed down the aisles of many a mini-van, for as long as we can remember. It is a question that has, to our knowledge, never once been met with the desired answer.

summer girls dresses

Family vacations are an important bonding experience for the family unit. Nothing establishes (or maybe tests?) your familial ties like sitting in a car for hours on end. It can be tempting to let them play hand-held video games the whole trip. But spending quality time together on long road trips can be a positive experience, one that your children will look back on fondly.

Years of research and threatening to turn the car around have yielded the following nuggets of wisdom for creating a fun family road trip.

1. Pack like a champ

If you’re traveling to a formal event, plan ahead to make sure the clothes stay presentable. The last thing you want is to put your boy in a wrinkled dress suit, or brainstorm ways to unflatten a bow on your daughter’s girls formal dress. See if you can fit their outfits in a garment bag along with yours. Or improvise – a hanger draped with a garbage bag works just as well.

2. Get those wiggles out

Whenever you make a pit-stop, take the opportunity to make sure everyone does at least 100 jumping jacks. Ok, there’s no magic number, but it doesn’t hurt to set a goal. The more energy they use up, the less they’ll be able to put into kicking the back of your seat.

3. Get lost in a book

Don’t expect to everyone to read a book the entire trip! Besides the limited attention span of younger travelers, car-sickness is never a cute look. But if you’re a family of readers, the written word can be one of the many weapons in your arsenal. Audio books, especially with an entertaining voice-actor, can provide enriching, (maybe even educational!) road-trip entertainment.

4. Car sing-a-longs

A word of caution: Consider carefully before you introduce “This is the song that never ends.” Children tend to take it as a challenge.

5. I spy…

Don’t dismiss the power of the road-trip game. They can kill an astonishing amount of time, especially if you can muster up enough enthusiasm. Yes, you might use up every last bit of pep from that last cup of coffee, but if you can manage to get your kids excited about spotting a license plate from each of the 50 states, you’ll have transformed a boring car trip into an important mission.

For even more excitement, up the ante: Whoever wins gets to decide where we stop for ice cream!

4 Formal Looks Every Kid Needs for Summer

June 2nd, 2014

You could fry an egg on the sidewalk. And yet, you keep getting invited to formal events that take place out of doors. Even if it’s an indoor event, there’s still the car ride there and back, and that excruciating twelve seconds before the A/C in your car starts working. Make sure your little debutantes are stocked up with the best looks a festive summer.

summer formal clothes for kids

1. High temps? Try a high-low dress

The high-low girls dress, featuring a hem that’s longer in the back than in the front, first came into fashion during the Victorian era. Also called a “mullet” skirt, the front of a high-low skirt won’t get in your daughter’s way while she shakes a leg, but the length in the back makes the outfit adorably formal.

2. Organza extravaganza

If you need something that goes great with the heat but still looks formal enough for an upscale event, try a sleeveless dress made from light, fluffy organza. Organza is a thin weave that floats airily over a crinoline, creating a full skirt that won’t feel too heavy for the heat. These tea length dresses come in white, embroidered with colorful, abstract patterns. For a cute, modern look, consider a high-low organza dress.

3. Keep those rays away.

It’s notoriously difficult to get little boys to put on fancy outfits, especially when it’s blistering hot out. Dark colors absorb the sun, so keep them cool with suits in light colors. A white formal suit or tuxedo is the next best thing to getting a suit with air conditioning built in. White suits are a notoriously bold fashion choice – they scream Malibu, Miami, LA – anywhere warm and fashion-forward. Don’t worry about Labor Day – as long as it’s over 72 degrees, you can’t go wrong with a white suit in the summer.

4. No sleeves, please!

Just because you’re going to a fancy event doesn’t mean you can’t take some practical measures. Keep everything ventilated with minimal sleevage. A sleeveless dress with a beautiful cascading bow, and a skirt made from layered organza and polytafetta, will make your daughter feel like she’s floating on a cloud. Or get your sleeveless look in a comfortable polysatin fabric, in a dress that will keep your daughter comfortable and wrinkle-free.

Don’t trap your son in a shirt with sleeves he has to roll up – get a selection of short-sleeved dress shirts for the summer and keep everybody happy.


Party Etiquette for Kids

May 28th, 2014

Time to party! They’ve got the boys dress suit, or the girls dresses, the hair, and the shoes. No matter how cute they look, there’s one accessory every child needs to bring to a party – good behavior! Getting them to act like little adults can feel like a battle. As with any potential conflict, a little preparation goes a long way.

girls formal shoes

Put your dancing shoes on…it’s time to party!

1. Distraction

If it’s an event for mostly adults, ensuring good behavior can also mean keeping them entertained. Do they know other children at the event? If not, introduce them to some new friends as soon as you can, so that a round of duck-duck goose can get underway before the toasts begin.

2. Socializing 101

This is a time when their social skills will be tested, maybe for the first time. If it’s a party for another child, make sure you review concepts like sharing and taking turns before the celebrations begin. Do you have a rule for how you want them to address adults? Have you covered the importance of “Please” and “Thank you”? It’s a good rule of thumb to make your expectations clear before the event, and not during.

Practice shaking hands. The more formal interaction you rehearse, the more comfortable they’ll feel. If your child tends to avoid eye-contact with adults, or hides behind your leg when confronted with strangers, consider how their shyness may impact them during the event. If you have a party on the calendar, now is the time to start focusing on building their confidence.

3. Time-outs

Bad behavior could result from the well-known phenomenon of “too much birthday.” In over-stimulating environments, acting-out could be the result of stress. Don’t overreact to tantrums – take an understanding approach. Tell them you’ve noticed they’re having trouble remaining calm, and you’re here to help. Go for a walk outside, do some light exercise, and take deep breaths. Only return to the party once you’ve restored inner peace.

4. Get a good night’s snooze!

Just like adults, children perform the best when they’ve had a good night’s sleep. The day before the big event, make sure your baby sleeps like a baby.

5. Positive Reinforcement

Just as you would outside of a party, communicate to your children how proud you feel when they respond appropriately to unfamiliar situations.

While you emphasize the importance of good behavior, don’t create a stressful, pre-party environment. You’re both going to have fun, no matter what. And whatever outfit you pick for the occasion, remind your kids: They’re never fully dressed without a smile. Check out our girls formal clothing and boys formal clothing together and find a look you’ll both be excited about!

Best Colors for Spring

May 19th, 2014

It’s not just Easter that makes pastels a popular choice for kids in the spring. Lighter colors reflect sunlight, while darker colors absorb it. So there you have it, the science of Easter colors. When you’re dressing children up for a formal occasion, encourage them to try something outside of their favorites. We don’t always think to wear the color that looks the best with our complexion!

spring girls dresses

Back in the 1980s, young beauties were supposed to find a season of colors that matched their skin tone, eye color and hair color. Supposedly, your coloring dictates how bright or how saturated a color palette you should use. These rules have gone out of style, but there are some basic rules of Color Theory to follow to ensure your child’s formal boys suit or girls dress brings out their natural beauty.

1. Green

In the list of favorite colors, green often gets short shrift. Green looks great with brown or hazel eyes, and will garner your red-haired child lots of compliments. We can explain this phenomenon using Color Theory – red and green look good together because they are opposite each other on a standard color wheel.

2. White with colorful details

A flower girl classic, you can’t beat the pastel-and-white combo for epitomizing a happy-go-lucky springtime feeling. Sashes and brightly colored bows make a white dress look more festive than formal. Since white is a cooler color, it makes pastels look especially bright by contrast.

3. Lavender

If you have a brown-eyed girl or boy, lavender will quickly become their best friend. A cool shade of lavender makes brown eyes look especially warm. Lavender is also a great color in a shade of pastel, and matches a beautifully-scented bouquet of everyone’s favorite springtime fragrance.

4. Yellow and Orange

Controversial color alert! Both of these serial offenders often look unflattering on adults. But while they can make grown-ups with pale skin look washed-out, children are more likely to have the ruddy complexion to pull it off. It also helps if they’ve been running around outside, developing a tan. The less pale the skin, the nicer it looks with especially bright colors. In pictures, kids dressed in yellow and orange really stand out from the crowd!

5. Pastels

Any shade of pastel will make your child look picture-perfect for spring. Because we associate lighter colors with new growth, pastels highlight your children’s youth and all-around cuteness.

Be sure to shop Puddles’ Girls Formal and Boys Formal collections for the perfect looks for any season!