Taking Kids to the Theater (and DC Giveaway!)

Taking Kids to the Theater | MoneywiseMoms

Seeing a theater show, where real people tell a story live on stage (and may even sing and dance!) can be a thrilling experience for the whole family. But taking kids to the theater can be an expensive outing, so it’s worth taking the time to make it the best you can. These 5 tips can help: 

Choose the right show

Consider show length, content and your child’s disposition before spending a lot on theater tickets. For many years, my girls couldn’t sit through a 90-minute movie (they couldn’t stand the loud volume or being in the dark), so seeing a live theater show went on the backburner for a long while. In many major cities, theater companies specifically stage shows for children as young as 3, so look online for recommendations for local theaters and productions. You may also find shows that run less than an hour, which is a great way to get younger kids started on live theater.

Prep for the story

Depending on the age of your kids, you may want them to know the story ahead of time so that they can follow along with the fast-pace on stage. Read the book or watch the movie and talk about the characters, plot and resolution. You could also listen to a cast recording of the music from an upcoming show to get the kids excited about what they’ll be seeing.

Talk about theater etiquette

With any theater visit, talk about what will happen before, during and after the show. When do we need to sit still, and when can we walk around? What should we do during the quiet parts of the show? When do we clap? My kids have a hard time sitting through the previews before a movie, so having to arrive early at a theater, find parking, find our seats and wait for the show is tough. Many theaters will let you get up and walk down to the orchestra pit before the show, to peek in and even talk to the performers. 

Make the kids comfortable

To get through the wait time before the show, consider bringing some quiet activities to keep busy (but be careful about bringing iPads and other electronics, since many theaters won’t allow cameras inside). Some theaters offer booster seats, so ask when you arrive. For your sake, make sure your kids are well-rested and well-fed (I made this mistake once with my son and it won’t happen again!).

Follow up

After the show, talk about what they enjoyed about the performance, costumes, sets and other details. Discuss how the story was interpreted compared to whatever source you shared beforehand. My son is always fascinated with the lighting, props coming from the ceiling, and any aerial effects, so we always have a lot to talk about.


Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Tour 

The fabulous show Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is returning to Washington DC this January 6-11th at the Warner Theatre. Tickets are on sale now! The show is currently on the West Coast and is traveling across the country over the next few months. Find tickets for your city

Beauty and the Beast | Taking Kids to the Theather | MoneywiseMoms

Giveaway Time!

Whether you’re a DC-area local or would like to travel in for the show, one lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win 4 tickets to see Beauty and the Beast at the Warner Theatre for the opening night performance on Tuesday, January 6th. If you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed, you’ll need to click over to the blog to enter on the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to the US and ends at 12:00 midnight ET on November 14, 2014. I’ll email the winner, who will have 48 hours to repond and accept their prize. The winner will pick up the show tickets at the Will Call window.


Disclosure: Warner Theatre is providing the tickets for this giveaway, and my family is receiving tickets to see the show.
Original photo by Mickey Thurman on Flickr.

Love Letter {Favorite Family Game}

Love Letter Card Game | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms
Love Letter is a fabulous card game that friends shared with us over the summer. It has quickly become a family favorite game–how can I tell? Because it’s played over and over again, it’s taught to all friends and family who visit, and then it’s loved by those friends and family (just like the DC Deck Building Game!). This game is very easy to learn and play. The game play is compact (you only have one card in your hand since there are only 16 in the whole deck), but it’s so clever. It plays differently every time, and it plays quickly. That’s always a positive thing when you’re playing a strategy game with kids. If it doesn’t go their way, you can just play it again.

The “story” is that that there’s a princess who is being wooed. She has locked herself in the palace, and you must rely on others to take your “love letter” to her. Each hand, the goal is to be the last one standing (and earn a cube/point). Each turn, you draw one card and choose one of your two to play down in front of you. Knowing how many cards there are of each type is part of the strategy, particularly for the “guessing” cards. Each hand is played until only one player is left; that player gets a point cube. Hands continue until someone wins the right number of cubes to end the game (the number depends on how many players there are).

Game Setup for Love Letter Card Game | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms

The deck has 8 different types of cards, each with a different rule of play. Part of the strategy is figuring out how best to play a high- or low-point card. With deduction and a combination of luck and strategy, it makes for an even playing field for both kids and adults.

Love Letter is for 2-4 players, and while the box says “Ages 8 and up,” of course we’ve played with younger kids. They do just fine. Reading is key, so keep that in mind. We’ve now played it many many times, and I can tell you that it’s a lot more fun with 3-4 players than just two. It’s an Americanized version of a Japanese game.

Cards from Love Letter Card Game | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms 
Love Letter is less than $8 at Amazon, which makes it a truly great inexpensive gift for an upcoming birthday or the holidays. Want free shipping? Sign up for a FREE 30-day Trial of Amazon Mom, which gives you Prime 2-day shipping and other Amazon Mom benefits for the next 30 days.


Looking for more family games or gift ideas? We also love Fandooble and King of Tokyo.

5 Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes

Are you ready for Halloween? There’s still plenty of time to dress up and have a fun time! Halloween is not a “big” holiday at our house, but my kids do like putting costumes together and trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Over the years, we’ve done all these ways to save on Halloween costumes. Add your tips below!

Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes | MoneywiseMoms
Host a Costume Swap
Within your moms’ club, church group or neighborhood, send out an invite asking for costumes to swap. Just label your costumes so you know who to return them to, and borrow away. My MOMS Club did this for years, and it was a great way to get a new-to-you costume for zero dollars.

Buy Used Costumes
You may not have a group to swap with, so keep an eye out for gently used costumes in thrift stores, at yard sales, and on neighborhood Facebook selling groups, Ebay and Craigslist.

DIY or Make your own | Ways to save on Halloween costumes | MoneywiseMoms
DIY/Make Your Own
If you enjoy doing DIY, whether it’s sewing or just using a glue gun (like my DIY Owl), you can make a costume to fit your child. We’ve even made a costume with tape and a paper plate! You can even make the hottest costume of the season–Olaf the Snowman! Download this free pattern from Craftsy and sew this beginner’s costume.

Use what you have | Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes | MoneywiseMoms
Use What You Have
This is what my kids usually do, since we’ve had a lot of dress-up clothes over the years. Just putting together a cape, scarf, boots, etc. can be the basis for a lot of different costumes.  One of the ways we make an old costume “new” is by adding face paint. My husband decided a few years ago that he wanted to tackle this, and he did a great job on our Tiger’s face. He looks forward to doing this every year now, and we always use the Snazaroo Face Painting Kit. It has a great instruction booklet to help you learn.

Buy Costumes | Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes | MoneywiseMoms
Buy a Costume Online
Why online? The selection in most stores like Target & Walmart is small, while the prices at party stores are outrageous (plus there’s so much gross stuff there I don’t want my kids to see). Plus, when you shop online, you can use coupon codes for a discount and get cash back. I’ve invested in costumes over the years because I knew they’d be used 3-5 years in our dress-up bin (then, I either sell them to recoup some cost or hand-them-down). If you go that route, pick costumes that will be used again and again–like animals, a Harry Potter robe, or (in our case) a dragon. That costume was worn daily for months!

What are your ways to save on halloween costumes?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a tiny percentage when you purchase from one of the links (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms!

Linked up to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now.

The Strong National Museum of Play {Rochester, NY}

Strong Museum of Play #familytravel
This past August, we took a week-long trip to upstate New York, mostly to see Niagara Falls, but also to visit The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester. I’d read about it in Family Fun magazine years ago, and ever since then, I’d wanted to visit. It was an amazing place! I’m dubbing it the “Happiest Place on Earth” for geek families like ours. It had everything we love, all in one place: toys, books, computers, games, tons of hands-on fun, and great food. It was a huge highlight of our vacation.

Strong National Museum of Play | American Comic Book Heroes #familytravel
The exhibit American Comic Book Heroes is set up for kids to “train” to be a superhero, with all kind of fun activities as well as some historic comic book storytelling. My kids got to test their strength and balance, climb a skyscraper and ride the Super Flight aerial course. Super fun!

I didn’t get any good pictures of the One History Place area, but it’s a full-scale home showing what life was like a century ago. My daughters dressed up and role-played in the kitchen and other rooms. Reading Adventureland had sections for all ages of readers, but my kids most loved the Wizard’s Workshop (of course!), with a wink to their favorite series.

Arcade at Strong National Museum of Play #familytravel
My husband’s favorite section–by far–was eGameRevolution, which is not only the first permanent video game exhibit in the U.S., but also had a full-size 1980’s arcade. He showed the kids all the games he played as a teen, and really enjoyed playing four-player games together. We spent a good long time in this area, where the kids got to try everything from historic Pong to current PC games. We spent a little money on tokens to use the arcade, but there was plenty to do for free.

Sesame Street at the Strong National Museum of Play #familytravel
A whole section of the museum is devoted to the history of Sesame Street. I got such a kick out of sitting on the famous stoop, and while most of the activities were too young for my big kids, there were lots of hands-on learning experiences.

The Wegmans Super Kids Market was the best iteration of this children’s museum staple that I have ever seen. Not only was it HUGE and had all the extra sections–deli, butcher, seafood, bakery, etc.–but the registers actually let you scan your items (every single item has a UPC code) and rings up a real paper receipt. My girls spent quite a bit of time in here role-playing, shopping and playing cashier. Another typical children’s museum section was Kid to Kid, with a focus on communication. The kids climbed on a whaling ship to learn semaphore and played post office.

Mid-day, we needed a break and were totally prepared for the typical yucky (and expensive) museum food, so we were pleasantly surprised to find a full-service Bill Gray’s in the Skyliner Diner in the front lobby. We had a great meal (and then came back for half-price milkshakes later in the afternoon) and sat and ate while watching the vintage Carousel. There’s also a food court if that’s more your speed.

Giant Toys at Strong National Museum of Play #familytravel
TimeLab showcased toys and trends for each decade. My husband and I laughed seeing the toys we’d had as kids, and it was fun showing the many lunchboxes and other trends to our kids. The National Toy Hall of Fame area focused on classic toys like Slinky, Etch a Sketch, and Mr. Potato Head, with giant versions to play with. We also loved the Game Time! exhibit, which had huge versions of classic games (like Battleship, above), and a great display on the history of board games.

Admission is $13.50 for ages 2 and older; under 2 is free. The Strong is part of the ACM reciprocal program, so you may be able to get a 50% discount on your tickets if you’re a member of a Children’s Museum in your local area.

Garden at Strong National Museum of Play #familytravel
As if this wasn’t enough, there’s also a 1700-gallon Rainbow Reef Aquarium in the museum, plus a Butterfly Garden (for an extra fee). Right outside, we strolled through the Discovery Garden, where we found these adorable fairy houses and art installed. Plus, across the street was a city park with huge tube slides. We spent some time there and walking around the fountains after the museum kicked us out closed.

The Strong was truly the BEST museum we have ever visited–and we’ve been to a lot of them!

Pley.com Subscription (Lego Rental Service) Giveaway

Pley.com Giveaway at MoneywiseMoms

It’s been three months now, and we’re still thoroughly enjoying our experience with Pley.com. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Lego rental service, sort of like Netflix + Lego. Sets come to your house, you build them (as many times as you like), then send it back and get the next one on your queue.


The last few sets haven’t even made it to the kids, I have to admit. One was the Technic Racer, a 24-inch long race car that my husband took days to build. He let them help a little, but it was his project. Our current set is the Palace Cinema, which we’re only 2/3 of the way through building. It’s been so much fun as a family to work a little, go on with our day, then come back to it. Everyone is getting a kick out of all the little details, like the old-fashioned film camera, the theater seats and the popcorn machine.

Lego Theater | Pley.com Giveaway at MoneywiseMoms 

I really want you to try Pley! It’s such a great way to try out Lego sets without buying them. You can try out several sets a month for less than the price of one.


One lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win a 6-month Super Fan Membership, one will win a 3-month Super Fan Membership, and everyone who enters will get a promo code for one FREE Month so you can try it for yourself. I’m using a Rafflecopter widget for this Pley.com giveaway, so be sure and check out all four ways you can enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway ends at midnight ET on Friday, September 26th. If you’re reading this in an email, you’ll need to click over to the blog to see the Rafflecopter entry form.


Disclosure: Pley is providing the prizes for this giveaway.

Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent

CBias Disclosure Sept 2014Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent #SparklySavings #shop

No one enjoys cleaning their house, but as my kids have gotten older, at least it’s gotten easier–because I have their help. I really don’t miss the days of having three kids under age three! We’ve kept our kids’ chores pretty simple, to make it easier for them (and mom and dad) to remember who does what. We have three kids so we brainstormed three types of chores: kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. Those are the tasks that need to be done every day, and my kids (ages 8, 8 and 11) are in charge of them. We have a simple chore chart to keep track, and at the beginning of each new week, we rotate the jobs. Each child keeps that chore for the week.

Chore Chart How-To | #SparklySavings #shop
It’s easy to make a chore chart to keep your kids on track:

1) Pick up a small wooden chalkboard and chalk pen ( found mine at Walmart for just $2.97 each).
2) Label your chalkboard with chores.
3) Decorate your chart (if desired). I used washi tape, but you could also have the kids paint or draw on the wood.
4) Use a stapler to attach a piece of ribbon to the back of your chart for hanging.

Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent #SparklySavings
With three kids, we came up with three jobs. If you have fewer or more kids, think about ways to “even out” the chores to make it fair. The other household chores (vacuuming, sweeping, etc.) are either done by Mom or Dad, or we tackle them as a family over the weekend. But these are the “big three” that get done daily:

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • sorts laundry into hot-medium-cold loads
  • carries baskets up and down the stairs
  • helps fold laundry
  • puts laundry away

One of my biggest pet peeves is how it seems everyone’s shirts, pants and socks are always inside out. With a laundry helper, it’s their job to right-side-out everything before we fold it and put it away.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • change the hand towels daily
  • make sure there’s an extra roll of TP in every bathroom*
  • vacuum the floors of each bathroom twice per week
  • use wipes to clean the sinktop in each bathroom
  • restock tissue boxes around the house

*I’m so so glad I added this to the chore list. Seemed like it was always me who would get surprised by an empty roll! It hasn’t happened since.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • empty the dishwasher each morning
  • help set and clear the table for dinner
  • help load the dishwasher in the evening and add dishwasher detergent
  • take out the kitchen trash on trash days

Our kitchen is a busy place! I truly appreciate all the help the kids give cleaning and doing chores for our family. Be sure and supervise kids when they’re handling dishwasher detergent; I like that Finish has single-use tabs so they get the amount just right.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

We have tons of dishes each day, with a family of five and all the cooking I do. Ever since we got a new dishwasher a few years ago, I’ve been a loyal customer of Finish Dishwasher Detergent. It does the job at a price I like, and now I’m excited to try their newest product: Finish Quantum, which is great for family dishes because it uses hydrogen peroxide instead of harsh chemicals.

Finish Tabs at Walmart #SparklySavings #CollectiveBias

When you head to your local Walmart, you’ll easily find Finish products–like Quantum, All-in-One Powerball Tabs, All-in-One Gelpacs, Gel and Powder–in the Paper & Cleaning aisle. You’ll also find Rollback prices until October for clean dishes at a great discount. Remember that you can combine Rollback prices with a coupon, too!

Thanks to #CollectiveBias for this fun #SparklySavings campaign!

Stick Figure Costume for Halloween

Last year, my son announced that he did not want to dress up for Halloween, that he was “too old.” He was 10, and I suppose he was a little influenced by friends with older siblings who said they were over it.

So of course two days before Halloween he changed his mind and wanted a costume. Ahem.

I told him the same thing I would have said October 1st, it has to be easy and not cost much. That’s how we do Halloween costumes around here. We ended up with this Stick Figure Costume:

Stick Figure Costume for Halloween | MoneywiseMoms
To make a stick figure costume, you’ll need:

  • white long-sleeved tshirt (we already had one, but check thrift stores if you need to buy one)
  • white long pants (we used an old pair of Tae Kwon Do pants)
  • black washi or painter’s tape
  • white posterboard
  • black permanent marker
  • sunglasses (optional)

For the head, cut a large circle out of the posterboard, then draw the face and cut out eye holes (be safe if your child will be walking around at night!). We taped the face to an old pair of sunglasses with the lenses popped out. This way, he could easily take the face on & off, and we didn’t have to do an elastic around his head. Add the tape to the shirt and pants.

It couldn’t be easier! And it certainly fit our budget. He got a huge response by both kids and adults as we trick-or-treated in our neighborhood. He was glad he decided to join in the fun.


Looking for more fun, frugal Halloween costumes? Take a look at my Happy Halloween Pinterest board or these frugal DIY Costumes from Halloweens past:

$5 DIY Owl Costume

5 No-Sew Tutu Halloween Costumes

Pirate Costume + Tips for a Moneywise Halloween


Stick Figure Costume is linked up to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less, Thrifty Thursday at The Thrifty Couple, Inspire Me Wednesday at seventhirtythree, Show & Tell at Gingerly Made, Share It Link Party at The Winthrop Chronicles, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, Whimsy Wednesday at Smart School House, Show & Tell at Snap!, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Inspiration Monday at i should be mopping the floor, Type A Parent Linkup, The SITS Girls, Too Cute Tuesday at Funky Polkadot Giraffe, and the Creative Collection Link Party at Craftomaniac. 

Family History Project {Free Printable}

Grandparents Day is this Sunday, September 7th. One of the best ways to get kids and grandparents to connect is just by spending time together talking. Luckily, distance isn’t a factor anymore–plan a Facetime chat or Google Hangout this weekend (or every weekend!) to keep the generations in touch. My mom loves to hear my kids talk about their friends, what games they’re playing, which books they’re reading, and whatever is happening at school. They’re looking forward to her next visit (in November), since she comes about twice a year.

I’m excited to share this free downloadable Family History Project from Kiddie Academy. It includes both a family tree, so kids can understand the connections to their grandparents, plus a list of questions for children to ask their grandparents that will help compare their life stories.

Family History Project for Grandparents Day | MoneywiseMoms
Wait till your kids hear about growing up in an earlier era, what the favorite toys and games were, and all the things they have in common with their grandparents. It’s such a treat to get these stories while you can. You can record the conversation with audio or video and save it for the future, or for later grandchildren to enjoy. Be sure to have your kids fill out their own interview now, so you can save it to show to their kids someday.

Thank you so much to Kiddie Academy for providing this free printable!

How are you celebrating Grandparents Day?

Linked up to Thrifty Thursday at The Thrifty Couple and Inspire Me Wednesday at seven thirty three.

Great Country Farms {Bluemont, VA}

Great Country Farms - Bluemont Virginia #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms

My kids and I were invited out to Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia. It was an hour drive northwest out of DC (lots of country roads, not much highway), with great views of horses, cows and mountains. We hadn’t been to a farm in a while; we did it all the time when they were preschoolers, but it was the first time with big kids of 8, 8 and 10. We went straight to the Animal Barn to meet the goats, pony, boar, peacocks, turkeys and chickens. Some of the baby goats were walking around, comfortable with visitors and looking to be fed and petted. My kids thought the pony was a big grumpy (he kept grabbing the feed cups right out of their hands!), but the giant boar was a sweetheart. We ended up spending the bulk of our time with the animals, which really surprised me. That’s what they wanted to do on the way out, and we spent another half hour petting and observing them.

Petting Farm at Great Country Farms - Bluemont Virginia #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms

There was plenty to do besides pet the farm animals. We wandered through the paths and found a giant jumping pillow. Too bad it was for kids only! I had to sit on a bench and watch them bounce and laugh away. They tried the giant tricycles in the Pedal Cart course, and found several tall tube slides hidden around corners. The shady playground area had lots of great structures–typical equipment along with a pirate ship, giant spider web, and more for climbing. There were plenty of picnic tables for parents to set up and relax while the kids played. A note about food–we went on a weekday and The Roosteraunt (their restaurant) was closed, since it’s only open on the weekends. I had hoped for some homemade pie. We had to make do with snacks and drinks from the Farm Market, more expensive than if you pack your own.

Jumping Pillow at Great Country Farms #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms

We did skip the corn bin–basically a huge sandbox of corn kernels with lots of dump trucks for playing. Lots of little kids were in there, and mine would have enjoyed that in their younger days.

The rope maze was so much fun. There was a board in the front giving titles depending on how long it took to complete. All the kids guessed they could do it in two minutes, but it took almost 9! The kids had hoped for a corn maze, but that doesn’t open until September after it’s all harvested. We got a good look at it while out on a tractor ride, so they want to go back and give that a try in the fall.

Rope Maze at Great Country Farms #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms

Last, we headed out to the U-Pick orchards, a fun tractor ride out to the peach trees, blackberry bushes, or green bean crops. What’s available changes often, so check the Now Picking page for the latest update (apples are next!). My kids had never picked their own fruits & veggies before, so this was a real treat. They really enjoyed picking their own beans and steaming them for dinner that night. This was a great opportunity to talk about where food comes from and how it gets to us.

UPick Fruits and Vegetables at Great Country Farms - Bluemont Virginia #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms

Great Country Farms wants you to enjoy a day out with your family. One lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win a 4-pack of tickets to Great Country Farms. Head out there on a weekend in September for the Apple Gala & Cider Festival or spend an October day at the Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival. Anytime you go, it’s a great experience for kids of all ages!

To enter: Leave a comment saying who you’ll take to Great Country Farms and what you think they’ll like best.

If you’re reading this in an email subscription, click over to the blog to enter. One entry per person, please. This giveaway ends Friday, August 29th, at midnight EST. Good luck! Congrats to Lauren M. She’s the winner!

Looking for more Northern Virginia family outings? See my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest and these posts:

Disclosure: I received a 4-pack of tickets to Great Country Farms, and they have provided the prize for this giveaway.