The Best Toys of 2018

It’s that time of the year again; the time for which children all over the world (and more than a few adults, too) have been waiting: the gift-giving season! In particular, as an adult and parent, you are well aware of the months’ approach, given how often the little one clamor about your feet asking questions about the toy budget this year. Instead of having to conduct hour-long searches on Google, we’ve compiled here a selection of the best toys of 2018 – with a wide range of costs so as to be inclusive of most peoples’ budgets.

Not surprisingly, some of the toys from last year crept on to this list, because of the simple fact that the craze for them has yet to die out. Fingerlings are one of them, and stores constantly complain of being out of stock when new requests come in, despite the feverish pace of manufacturers in keeping up with their end of the supply and demand curve. With that set, let’s jump right into the top toys.

The Fingerlings As Advertised

These little monsters and cute, adorable creatures are still near the very top of any kid’s list of toys this year. The Raptors Untamed is the latest incarnation in the line of finger-attached action figures, which successfully combines dinosaurs with the caricatures that have been thus far reserved for sloths, monkeys and other relatively cute critters. Fingerlings are recommended for ages 5 and up.

Plush Toys With a Twist

It’s not surprising that plush toys would be a big hit with kids within a certain age range; even many adults appreciate their large, plush and furry nature. The thing about the new brand of plush toys known as Grumblies – which are making waves across the nation – is that they’re losing a bit of their cuteness and gaining a rougher edge. For some reason, though, kids are taking to them as a replacement for the unrelentingly cute furries of yesteryear. Just wait until you get a look at their faces! Things sure have changed since you were a kid.

Dinosaurs Are Taking Over – Imaginext Jurassic

Not surprisingly, the reemergence of Jurassic Park on the Big Screen has spawned a resurgence of toys related to the franchise. The Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Park, for example, is a definitively hot ticket item that’s certain to fly off the shelves for months to come. It’s large and substantial, which means that it will take up lots of play time as your little loved one cycles through all the permutations and makes his little slice of Jurassic Park come to life.

Pet Vet Play – The Examine and Treat Play Set

For your fledgling veterinarian; this adorable playset starts him on the road to becoming a doctor for the sick animal someday. It’s no wonder that this is one of the best toy sets of the year – toy maker team Melissa and Doug has stocked the bag full of all the little elements that real pet docs use. You even get a pet toy dog and cat in the bag, on which to carefully run your health examinations. With two dozen pieces in all, your little one won’t want for examples of what to do. It comes with a diagram and a checklist, too.

Make Mine Marvel With The Avengers Training Kit

There hasn’t been a comic book franchise as successful on the Big Screen as Marvel’s recent movies, with characters like Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor and Black Panther capturing the imaginations of fans of all ages – especially the young. This toy set lets them use various odds and ends from their super-powered heroes and pretend to shoot repulsor blasts from the lifelike Iron Man gauntlet, or snake through the advanced jungles of Wakanda with the Black Panther mask.

Nerf N-Strike Elite Gun

Never to be confused for a real gun, this colorful projectile toy carries quite the punch – and it’s all in fun, guaranteed to provide the children with hours and hours of fun in any moderately expansive space. Nerf guns tend to dominate the Christmas season among a certain age group, and the company has responded with advancements that will have your boys (and some girls) clamoring for upgrades like the speed-load tech that automatically loads the next foam clip and lays waste to the opponent’s dreams of escaping untouched. Always be sure to get extra darts – they are inexpensive since it’s just colored foam.

We could of course go on and on with the toys that are available this year, but the above are definitely some of the very best.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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How NOT to Go Broke During the Holidays

It’s less than a month until Christmas, whoa! Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were making New Year resolutions?

With the holidays upon us, it’s time to start preparing financially for Christmas. If you fail to plan your finances, you’re likely to usher the New Year in debt.

According to a report by Gallup, the average American consumer will be spending about $800 on Christmas presents alone. This a substantial financial hit to take in a month, and the more reason why you should plan your Christmas finances.

Check out these tips that will save you from going broke during the holidays.

Make a Budget (and Stick to It)

Making a Christmas budget is the most important thing you can do this holiday season. A budget will help you to avoid going into debt.

You need a budget before starting to shop for gifs; not the other way round. Make a reasonable and realistic budget that you can stick to. Look at your current budget and check how much you have saved towards holidays. If your total savings for the holidays is $300, this is what you should spend on gifts. There are various awesome budget-friendly secret Santa ideas for any amount you have.

If you anticipate you would need more than you have currently saved, look for ways to increase the amount before Christmas. This may mean skipping your daily call at Starbucks or even getting a side hustle during the weekends for some extra bucks.

Shop for Worthy Deals

Stores offer deals galore during the holidays. If you know the gifts you’ll want to get your loved ones, start checking prices now.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. Check deals during these days to find out whether you can grab a few gifts that are on your list.

However, make sure that the deals advertised at stores are really worth it. With customers expecting huge price drops during Black Friday, some stores actually charge more for items on the day but advertise them as deals. Do not buy an item simply because it has a “Black Friday Sale” sticker.

If you prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, one easy way of confirming whether you are getting a good Black Friday deal is by using a QR scan app. Download the app on your phone and when you see an item you want to buy, scan its barcode in the app. The app will then let you know which other stores carry the same item and their prices.

Using a QR scan app will help you know whether you are getting a good deal or the store is simply taking advantage of the mad shopping frenzy of Black Friday.

Say “No” Often

Most holiday spending is done on impulse. This is the reason why many people end the holidays in debt. To avoid getting trapped by impulse spending, you will have to practice saying no. In particular, say no to the following:

  • Withdrawing your emergency fund money to spend on Christmas gifts
  • Charging Christmas gifts on credit cards and racking up interest
  • Opening a credit card to spend more than you have saved for the holidays
  • Spending more than you have allocated for your holiday budget

‘Tis the season to be jolly… but the season only lasts a short time. In a few weeks, you will be back to normal life with financial obligations to be met.

Before spending any extra amount during the holidays, consider your long-term financial goals. Perhaps you have a mortgage to pay, your kids’ tuition fees, insurance and so on. Is it really worth it racking all that debt for one season when dozens of financial obligations will be waiting for you over the next year?

If you have a spouse, have an open and honest conversation about holiday finances. Would you rather you rather use $1500 on gifts or invest it in your business? Make wise decisions.

They say money is jealous and when it goes, coming back is never easy. Spend money on things that will make you debt-free.

Check Return Policies and Save Receipts

If you wish to buy Christmas presents early, check the return policies of the stores where you are buying. You never know whether the gift would be suitable for the person you are buying for. Save the receipts just in case you would want to return the gifts.

New businesses and smaller boutique shops don’t always offer returns. However, if they offer returns, you may only be given store credit. Check the policy of the store where you are shopping just to be sure you can get your money back if you decide you do not need the gift anymore. Follow the tips above to avoid going broke during the holidays.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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The Polar Express Returns to Union Station 2018

Today is the day! The Polar Express Returns to St. Louis Union Station! As usual the folks at The Polar Express have showed that this event is worth checking out year after year. Each character has their own style and entertaining ways of keeping kids AND adults having fun during your entire visit. Whether it’s the Hobo cracking jokes, or the chefs passing out some hot chocolate, there is always something going on that will keep your attention. Check out my social media pages to see some exclusive photos from our ride on The Polar Express this year.

THE POLAR EXPRESS TRAIN RIDE
AT ST. LOUIS UNION STATION
KICKS OFF THE HOLIDAY SEASON TONIGHT
WITH TRAINS TO THE “NORTH POLE”
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2018
3:30 P.M. TO 8:30 P.M.

 

WHAT: The Polar Express Train Ride at St. Louis Union Station begins the 2018 season tonight. Kids and their families — dressed in their Christmas pajamas — meet with Santa and his elves, sing with the Polar Express chefs and learn the story of The Polar Express on their journey to the North Pole.

WHEN: Tonight, Friday, November 16. Riders begin arriving as early as 3:30 p.m. to take part in a variety of holiday activities and pre-boarding fun. The first train departs for the North Pole at 4:30 p.m. Trains also depart at 6, 7:15 and 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: St. Louis Union Station. Enter the parking lot from 18th St. south of Clark.

ABOUT THE POLAR EXPRESS TRAIN RIDE AT ST. LOUIS UNION STATION:

The Polar Express Train Ride at St. Louis Union Station is returning for the 2018 holiday season. Trains begin running from St. Louis Union Station to the North Pole tonight — Friday, November 16 — and continue on selected dates through December 30, 2018.

Tickets are on sale at www.STLPolarExpressRide.com.

The Polar Express Train Ride’s magical story of a boy’s search for the meaning of Christmas comes to life when real trains departs St. Louis Union Station for a round-trip journey to the North Pole.

Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers will relive the magic of the story as they are whisked away on The Polar Express. Once on board, passengers are served hot chocolate and cookies by the Polar Express chefs as they read along with the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg.

Santa and his helpers greet passengers at the North Pole and then board the train. Santa interacts with each child and gives them the first gift of Christmas — a silver sleigh bell. Chefs and Santa’s elves lead passengers in singing Christmas carols on the ride back to St. Louis Union Station.

Trains depart St. Louis Union Station at 4:30, 6:00, and 7:15 p.m. Trains also will run at 8:30 p.m. on selected dates. Passengers are encouraged to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure to enjoy holiday activities and photo opportunities in the boarding area.

Riders may choose from two classes of service on The Polar Express — Coach and First-Class. Coach tickets start at $39. First-class ticket holders will receive a Polar Ex- press mug and will be seated at four-top tables on the train.

Guests can save 20 per- cent on The Polar Express Train Ride when they purchase their tickets along with a hotel package at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. Hotel rooms decorated with Christmas trees are available for a special holiday treat.

More information about dates, fares and excursion times is available by calling 314-942- 6942, or by visiting www.STLPolarExpressRide.com. Families are encouraged to wear their holiday pajamas for the ride.

In addition to the train ride, St. Louis Union Station will continue its popular holiday fire and light show set to Christmas music on the train shed lake each evening during the holiday season.

St. Louis Union Station also will host a series of Magical Meals — holiday character dinners in the beautiful Grand Hall of the historic train station during the Polar Express season. Featuring 3-D light shows projected on the ceiling and visits with Santa’s elves chefs and The Polar Express Conductor, the dinner sessions are available on selected days when the Polar Express Train Ride is in operation. Dinners are served buffet style with separate adult and children’s selections priced between $20 and $25. Children ages two and under are complimentary. An elaborate holiday dessert buffet accompanies the dinners. Reservations for the 5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. dinners may be purchased online at www.STLPolarExpressRide.com. Tip: Select dates for the Magical Meal first, then purchase train tickets for the same date.

This year, a Build-A-Bear pop up shop will be located in the activities tent for the first time. An event-themed bear will be available for children to create on site. For more in- formation, visit buildabear.com.

St. Louis Union Station is located at 1820 Market Street in downtown St. Louis. Parking is available in the Union Station lot at 18th and Clark for just $5 for all Polar Express ticket holders.

St. Louis Dad was compensated tickets to ride The Polar Express in exchange for an honest review.

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6 Unique Gift Wrapping Ideas

Six Unique Gift-Wrapping Ideas

The art of wrapping gifts happens to be one among the things having a great start but then gets worse over time. One will not only use the wrapping papers on heavy rotation but also fall short of incredible ideas in a short time. Due to this concern, many people end up relying more on gift bags than they should. Therefore, great ideas to transform the gift-wrapping lives of such individuals are necessary.

This year, you expect to make even the least valuable gifts to look uniquely-sterling. The process can never be simplified further than the following outstanding ideas meant to transform the whole wrapping process and make all gifts eye-striking.

  1. Nametags Done Creatively

Source: Man Made DIY

It is not uncommon that few people would recycle the wrappers they had before. If you are one of them, then you have to use a plain paper to wrap your gift, and write on top of it the name of the receiver in a flaring way.

You need to use an Xacto knife and a stencil to dexterously cut out target-letters from a printed paper or a newspaper and glue them on your package. If this process is a tedious one for you due to the long time you will consume, then you can alternatively get stick letters from the nearby craft store and save all the time you would otherwise spend cutting the letters from newspapers. Eventually, the final piece you will get is an incomparable one regardless of the method used, as long as every detail is emphasized and unmatched clarity is employed throughout the processes!

  1. The Black and White Technique

Source: Going Home to Roost

This is a trick that is fast-growing and many people all over the world are fast-adopting it for the efficiency it offers. You only need a black craft paper, which your gift should be wrapped in, and then a white paint pen is used to write the names of the recipient on it. With this method, you will indeed use the shortest time possible and still manage to bring out the elegant look it deserves. However, the short length of time you will use means you employ meticulousness on every detail to make the work quite a masterpiece in the end.

  1. The Colored and Patterned Bow with White Paper

Source: Perfectly Imperfect Blog

It is the favorite for many people due to its explicit elegance. It has a clean appeal owing to the white background. When you add the brightly-colored bow, you will have a gift that is eye-catching for its beauty. You can enhance its specialness by using the simple tricks of the boldly colored satin or patterned bows.

  1. Using Natural Means

Source: Apartment Therapy

You can use little effort to acquire the highly-coveted brown-wrapped packages that bear a spring of evergreen, which identifies it with nature. Creativity is all that is needed here, and when you use your fresh foliage to enhance the look, it will turn out both appealing and unmatched at the same, and the people who look at it will love the work put in the process as they appreciate nature as well. Even though the cost put in the process money wise is negligible, the receivers of these gifts will hardly forget your creativity and they will keep appreciating the unique presentation you did for quite a long time.

  1. Stacking the Packages

Source: Interesting Stuff

One may be having several parts to their gift, and it is highly advisable to make them all look like one gift instead of dealing with each of them as a separate entity. When you apply this trick, it will eliminate the bulkiness of the entire package and as well as add some unimaginable pomp to it. You can use tricks such as the Snowman and Santa stacks or any other applicable stack bearing the same model through the entire package. When done correctly, it will put smiles to many faces that will behold the sight, especially under the trees. However, you should know the process requires a little more effort as compared to the aforementioned ones, but it is all worth the hassle.

  1. The Use of Holiday Decorators

Source: Hometalk

The idea of using the holiday decoration-enhancers to beautify your package is quite a lovable one. These include the lights, the tiny ornaments, and candy canes. All these add some little but an extra value to the appeal of your package. The package will be attractive from both the inside and outside, and it will indeed match the merry-making occasion! Also, it will create a serene appeal by the way it looks even to those who are not meant for the present, and they will all leave at the end of the day with the memories of your strikingly-appealing piece of art lingering in their minds.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

 

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