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Welcome to May! Beautiful weather, crazy schedules (how many school events can you cram into one month?!), and summer on the horizon!

Here are a few of the fun family activities coming up this month:

(As always, I'm very grateful for you supporting SV Toddler by shopping via my affiliate links! Shop for anything you need, at no extra cost to you, and it helps me to keep this blog going. Thanks)

Saturday, May 4

STEM Superhero Festival, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

May Fete Parade and Fair, Downtown Palo Alto. 10:00 a.m.

Maker[Space]Ship, Emma Prusch Farm Park, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

A la Carte & Art, Downtown Mountain View. 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Scoop on Poop Preschool Gardening Class, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Santa Clara University Pow Wow, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara. 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Rabbit and Coyote are Friends Puppet Show, Northside Branch Library, Santa Clara. 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter's Tea, Morgan Hill Historical Society, Morgan Hill. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Vase Bouquet Teacher Appreciation Craft (ages 3+), Lakeshore Learning (Bascom Ave.), San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Storytime and Yoga, Books Inc., Campbell. 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Star Wars Day at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles, San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

May Day, Oakland Zoo. 12:00 - 1:30 p.m.

Cinco de Mayo Festival, Great America, Santa Clara. 12:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Free Kids and Family Magic Show, Studio by Terra Amico, San Jose. 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., instruction afterwards.

Screening of Mary Poppins Returns, Campbell Library, 2:00 p.m.

Star Wars Day, Central Park Library, Santa Clara. 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Chewbacca Pinata Craft, Northside Branch Library, Santa Clara. 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 5

STEM Superhero Festival, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Nikkei Matsuri, Japantown, San Jose. 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

A la Carte & Art, Downtown Mountain View. 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Cinco de Mayo Festival, Great America, Santa Clara. 12:00 - 6:00 p.m.


Saturday, May 11

Celebrate Mom Craft (ages 3+), Lakeshore Learning (Bascom Ave.), San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 12

Kids in the Garden, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Tuesday, May 14

Kick Off KidsFest, Santana Row, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Saturday, May 18

Kids 'n' Kites Festival, Lake Elizabeth/Central Park, Fremont. 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Event, Lakeshore Learning (Bascom Ave.), San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Turn the Page Children's Book Festival, Children's Fairyland, Oakland. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Boogie Music Festival, Downtown Campbell. 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Hands on the Arts Festival, Sunnyvale Recreation, Sunnyvale. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Touch-a-Truck, Los Altos Town Hall. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 19

Boogie Music Festival, Downtown Campbell. 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Hiya Moriah Book Reading at Magical Bridge Playground, Palo Alto. 3:00-5:00 p.m.


Saturday, May 25

Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, Downtown Morgan Hill. 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Memorial Day Wreath Craft (ages 3+), Lakeshore Learning (Bascom Ave.), San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 26

Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, Downtown Morgan Hill. 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Manure to Meadow to Mmmmm, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
I'll keep adding to this, but it's a start! Enjoy!
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Happy Spring, everybody! I know I say this about every season (except for winter...I really hate winter), but Spring is one of my favorite times of the year!

This year, with such a late Easter, there are egg/bunny-related activities spread throughout the month of April, along with lots of earth/nature/gardening celebrations, and oh so much more! Here's my first go at a Spring Planner -- I have much more to add, and will as I find the time.

If you enjoy and value this planner, please be sure to show your support of SV Toddler by checking out my other blog posts and shopping via my affiliate links!




(Small, high-quality toys for under $10)



And now for the Planner!



Friday, April 5

Outrageous Outgrowns, Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Saturday, April 6

Veggielution's 1st Saturday, Veggielution Community Farm, San Jose. 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Outrageous Outgrowns, Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Tartan Day Scottish Faire, Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont. 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Spring Open House, South Bay Historical Railroad Society, Santa Clara. 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Animobiles Story Time, Youth Science Institute, Vasona Park, Los Gatos. 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Vasona Boating Opening Weekend, Vasona Park, Los Gatos. 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Children of the Dragon, Children's Discovery Museum, San Jose. 12- 4 p.m.


Sunday, April 7

Outrageous Outgrowns, Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Color Dash 5k Fun Run, Congress Springs Park, Santa Clara. 10:00 a.m.

Spring Open House, South Bay Historical Railroad Society, Santa Clara. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Vasona Boating Opening Weekend, Vasona Park, Los Gatos. 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

The Great Rose Garden Ladybug Release, San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose. 6:18 - 7:18 p.m.


Saturday, April 13

Almaden Quicksilver Spring Bioblitz, Almaden Quicksilver Park, San Jose. 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

Downtown Easter Egg Hunt, Downtown Los Altos, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Spring Farm Tours, Deer Hollow Farm, Los Altos. 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Spring Celebration, Martial Cottle Park, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Spring Festival and Photos with the Easter Bunny, Santana Row, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Easter Egg Hunt, Miner Park, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Earth Day on the Bay, Marine Science Institute, Redwood City. 10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Earth and Arbor Day Festival, Civic Center Plaza, Cupertino. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Kids in the Garden, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Family Swim Night with Easter Egg Hunt, Waterworks Aquatics, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Easter Party and Egg Hunt, La Petite Playhouse, Redwood City. 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.


Sunday, April 14

Gamble Garden Easter Egg Hunt, Gamble Garden, Palo Alto. 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Spring into Green, Town Plaza Park, Los Gatos. 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Wildflower Festival, Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol. 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 12:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Natural Bridges Tidepool Tours, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz. 1:00 p.m.

Easter Egg Hunt, Los Lagos Golf Course, San Jose. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.


Monday, April 15

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.


Tuesday, April 16

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.


Wednesday, April 17

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.


Thursday, April 18

Earth Day Celebration, Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, 4-7 p.m.

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.


Friday, April 19

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 2:00 - 8:00 p.m.


Saturday, April 20

Alum Rock Park Earth Day, Youth Science Institute, Alum Rock Park, San Jose. 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Egg-Stravaganza, Central Park, Santa Clara. 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Campbell Eggstravaganza Easter Egg Hunt, Campbell Community Center, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

Earth Day Party for the Planet, CuriOdyssey, Coyote Point Park, San Mateo. 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. beach cleanup, then activities all day.

The Hoppening Easter Egg Hunt, Winchester Mystery House, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Easter Bunny and Egg Extravaganza, Shoreline Lake Park, Mountain View. 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Willow Glen Charm Easter Egg Hunt, Cline Park at Booksin Elementary, San Jose. 10:00 a.m.

Easter Egg Hunt, Lincoln Glen Church, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Egg Hunt 2019, Burgess Park, Menlo Park. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Earth YAY!, Northside Branch Library, Santa Clara. 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. (age specific)

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Bunnies and Bonnets Parade, Downtown Campbell. 12:00 p.m.

Make Cascarones, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:00 - 1:45 p.m.

Spring Eggs, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Family Swim Night with Easter Egg Hunt, Waterworks Aquatics, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.


Sunday, April 21

Make Cascarones, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 9:15 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Easter Egg-stravaganza, Bass Pro Shops, San Jose. 12:00 - 5:00 p.m.


Monday, April 22

EGG-traordinary Family STEM Challenge, Northside Branch Library, Santa Clara. Grades 2 and up.


Saturday, April 27

Sheep Shearing Day and Homesteaders Fair, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Bug Day 2019, Randall Museum, San Francisco. 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.


Sunday, April 28

Touch a Truck, San Jose Parents Participating Nursery School, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Touch-a-Truck Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley Skypark, Scotts Valley. 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Manure to Meadow to Mmmmm, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Natural Bridges Tidepool Tours, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz. 1:00 p.m.


Tuesday, April 30

Children's Day in the Park, Magical Bridge Playground, Palo Alto. 10:30 a.m - 12:30 p.m.


Saturday, May 4

Scoop on Poop Preschool Gardening Class, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter's Tea, Morgan Hill Historical Society, Morgan Hill. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 5

Nikkei Matsuri, Japantown, San Jose. 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 12

Kids in the Garden, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Tuesday, May 14

Kick Off KidsFest, Santana Row, San Jose. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Saturday, May 18

Kids 'n' Kites Festival, Lake Elizabeth/Central Park, Fremont. 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Boogie Music Festival, Downtown Campbell. 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Touch-a-Truck, Los Altos Town Hall. 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 19

Boogie Music Festival, Downtown Campbell. 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Sunday, May 26

Manure to Meadow to Mmmmm, Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos. 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
I'll keep adding to this, but it's a start! Enjoy!
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Some of my Lollipop Market finds from last Spring!
The Lollipop Market -- an upscale kids'/women's resale event -- is coming up this weekend (Friday and Saturday from 9-5, Sunday from 10-3) at Cambrian Park Plaza in San Jose, and I'm taking a break from tagging the items that I'm selling (so. much. stuff!) to give you my tips and tricks for a fun and fruitful shopping experience.

I've shopped at this bi-annual sale since the Spring 2013 event, and I've sold at the sale since Spring 2014. I've bought items from almost every category -- tons of kids' clothes, shoes, baby gear (an excellent condition Beco for $15 and a beautiful Maclaren stroller for $30!), toys, books (I remember grabbing one of our favorites, Trashy Town, on half-price day a few years ago), DVDs (Alice in Wonderland and Little Mermaid both came from Lollipop!), and more.

More of last Spring's LM finds!
Watching the sale grow (this is the biggest sale yet, by number of items consigned) and change (including adding women's clothing and accessories) over the past few years has definitely given me some insights into finding great deals on name brand items that have been gently used by other kids. Here are my thoughts on how to get the most out of your Lollipop Market experience:

1. Clear out space. If you're already a seller at the consignment event, this is a no-brainer. As you prepared your items for sale, you no doubt pulled out previous seasons' clothing, shoes, etc., as well as older toys, games, and books, to see if they still fit your needs. If they didn't, you listed them, tagged them, and packed them off to find new homes at the sale -- leaving your home with space for new finds.

If you're not a seller, and you didn't do a big clean out at the change of seasons (there's a reason these sales take place in the spring and fall!), take a minute to go through your child's closet and see what you can weed out.

  • Tip: Toddler X HATES it when I ask him to try on clothes to see if they fit, so rather than bribe him through fitting after fitting, I simply pull one item from each category that I know currently fits, have him try it on to confirm, then use it as a guide to evaluate other items. For example, if I have him try on a pair of jeans and they're exactly the right length, then I know that anything shorter is too short; same with t-shirts, polo shirts, button-downs, sweatshirts. 
  • Tip: If something is clearly seasonal -- say, a lightweight dress for Baby X -- and she's almost out of it in September, then she definitely will be by next April, so I go ahead and pull it now (and throw it in a bin labeled "Sell in Spring" -- never too early to start getting ready!).

Whether you plan to sell your outgrown items, hand them down to friends, or donate them, it's a good idea to do the clean-out before the next stage of preparation, which is...

2. Inventory, inventory, inventory! Now that you've gotten rid of what you don't need, it's time to figure out what you have so you can come up with a list of what you do need.

Consignment sales are lots of fun, and the prices can be incredible, so it's easy to get carried away. At some of my early consignment outings, I'd be super excited to come home with five pairs of nice shorts...only to look in Toddler X's drawer and discover that, oops! I already had five pairs of nice shorts! Or I'd buy a size or two ahead with absolutely no idea of what I already had in my stash at home, and end up with six pairs of Size 5 jeans...when he was only three years old.

I've learned my lesson, and now I'm happy to say that I have it down to a science.

  • Tip: Before any sale, I set a HARD maximum on the number of sizes ahead that I'm willing to buy, and I pledge that I won't set foot in a section beyond that. For example, Baby X is in 18-24 months or 2T right now -- at this sale, I'll let myself look up to 5 (and something would have to be pretty incredible for me to buy it at that size), but not beyond.

With those parameters in mind, it's pretty easy to inventory our stash.

  • Tip: Grab all the items in a category -- shorts, short sleeve tees, long sleeve tees, sweatshirts, sneakers, etc. -- lay them out on the bed, and snap a picture, then label the picture with the size of the items. Depending on how many clothes you have -- and how big a bed! -- you could do this by size or by category. In other words, a picture of ALL of your child's long sleeve tees, with size labels on the picture (I just use the photo edit feature on my phone), or a picture of ALL your child's Size 6 clothes, regardless of category. Then do the same for Size 7 and Size 8 (or whatever size you've decided to buy through). At the sale, as you're considering a purchase, you can just pull up the photo and check whether you already have a black fleece in Size 6 or khaki shorts in Size 8 -- no need to rely on your memory (mine is notoriously faulty these days).

Taking an inventory before the sale is the best way to prevent yourself from buying a whole bunch of things that you don't need. And, on the flip side, it helps with the next step, which is...

3. Make a List of What You Need/Don't. Again, this is something I learned after early consignment experiences had me coming home with six pairs of pajamas in the next size, only to find that I already had several. ("But they were so cute! The prices were so good! How could I pass them up?") You WILL find cute things at consignment sales, and the prices WILL be good, so you need to give yourself parameters of what you will and will not allow yourself to buy.

  • Tip: My personal practice is to make a three category list for each kid: (i) Things we really need, (ii) things to buy if they're particularly great, and (iii) things NOT TO BUY NO MATTER WHAT. For Baby X, pajamas currently fall into that last category. I have no problem with her wearing Toddler X's pajamas, and given that I love nicer pajamas, all of his old ones are in great shape. We literally have a full bin of pajamas for her all the way through 4T. No matter how cute, no matter what the brand, no matter what the price, I do NOT allow myself to buy her pajamas.

For Baby X right now, for example, my must-have list includes Uggs in Size 7 or 8, Natives in Size 6, a Gap jean jacket in 3T, layering tees to get her summer dresses into fall/winter, a few cardigans, and maybe a sweatshirt or two (and who am I kidding -- I'll also buy all the Tea dresses I can find, because I'm just obsessed). Toddler X could use a sweatshirt or two, a nice sweater, and a few pairs of shoes. These things are on my "actively searching for" list.

Having looked ahead two sizes, I also know what we already have for next spring and summer, so things I like in those sizes, but don't already own, go in the "buy if they're particularly great" category. And, like I said, there's a hard stop on things that we already have a million of.

Having that list helps me make more clear-headed decisions when I find myself looking at the world's cutest pajamas...which will look great on somebody else's kid, I think, as I hang them back on the rack.

4. Measure or Bring a Template. This sounds goofy, but it's important to remember that not all brands fit alike, and with dryer shrinkage and pattern differences, even the same size in the same brand can fit totally differently.

  • Tip 1: I measure the inseam of a pair of Toddler X's pants that fits perfectly right now and a dress of Baby X's that's on the shorter end, and don't buy anything that measures shorter (yes, I bring a tape measure to the sale). Same with shoulder to hem length on tees, and length on shoes (the same size in different brands can be TOTALLY different in length). Jot the lengths down and use them as a guide while you shop, or -- another tip -- measure them with a length of ribbon and just bring the ribbon along (works best if you only have one kid).
  • Tip 2: When shopping, just eyeball length while you're among the racks -- that's not the time/place to measure. Once you've gone through, find a space off to the side, measure the shortest pair to see if it fits your correct length, then just measure the other pants/dresses against that, rather than individually measuring each one.

5. Do some research on pricing. This is particularly relevant at an upscale sale like Lollipop Market. If you're on the lookout for higher-end brands, it's worth knowing what they sold for originally in assessing whether you're getting a good deal at the sale. Brands like Tea Collection, Mini Boden, Mathilda Jane, Alice & Ames, etc. can be pricey when new -- like, $30 for a t-shirt or $50 for a dress pricey -- and various European/boutique brands can be even higher (look up Burberry Kids or Well Dressed Wolf -- eek!). A great deal on one of those brands would be higher than a great deal on an item from Gap or Gymboree (also available at this sale), and your re-sale potential (like, what you could re-sell it for after your kids wear it) might be as high with one of those luxury brands as what you paid (so you're basically just renting the item -- or at least that's what I tell myself). I've heard people gasp, "What?!? This used dress is $15 -- are you kidding me?" -- but if the dress is in great condition and was $60 new, then that could still be an excellent deal. Hop online if you have a moment to do some preliminary research. Regardless, know that the only good deal is something that your kids will actually use/enjoy, so resist the urge to buy just because the price seems right.

6.  Plan the Best Time for Your Visit. This is an easy one for the consignors -- part of the reason we choose to sell at these sales is so we can access the sellers' sale the night before the events open to the public. But if you're not selling at a particular event, you need to decide when to visit over the course of the weekend. Lollipop Market, for example, is open to the public from 9-5 on Friday and Saturday and from 10-2 on Sunday, and shopping at each time has its advantages and disadvantages.

Friday morning is obviously when the most inventory will be available. The only people who have shopped before you are the sellers/pre-sale passes, so there will be a LOT of items for sale at amazing prices. People grab the "low hanging fruit" (or lower-priced great items) first, so the earlier you get there, the more likely you are to find deals.

Because of this, however, you're also more likely to find crowds, and the small-ish space gets congested fast. Some people thrive in that environment -- others hate it. Consider whether you get a rush from competing for the best items/deals or if it will just stress you out, and figure out a balance that works for you. (If you have very specific wants/needs, you should shop earlier than if your searches are more general or you just want to browse.) 

Later on Friday, there will be fewer items to choose from (though still plenty of good stuff -- I know this, because I've shopped Sunday and found incredible deals then!), but also less congestion. Saturday morning will likewise be more congested than Saturday afternoon, and Sunday the same (Sunday morning will be crowded because of the shoppers looking for half-off deals, Sunday afternoon will be low key).

Now, if you're worried that you won't find anything good if you can't (or would rather not) be there bright and early Friday morning, nothing could be further from the truth! At last fall's sale, I was out of town until the Saturday of the sale weekend. I didn't get to shop AT ALL until Sunday. And yep, I walked out of there with five or six items that I was downright delighted about -- a lot fewer items than my usual haul, but with just as high a satisfaction level. They were items that people likely passed over because the original prices were high, but the sellers had (wisely) decided to mark them down to half price for Sunday, so I ended up with great finds for great prices. 

And it's not just Sunday that produces winners. During a sale, people grab more items off the rack than they eventually end up buying, and despite the best efforts of volunteers, sometimes those non-purchased items don't make it back to the proper spots on the racks right away (or ever!). As a result, these items could be missed by early shoppers, while a later shopper might luck out. (I know this occurs because it happened to me -- as a seller -- at a different sale last year. Shopping on Sunday, I found a 6-12 month dress of mine smushed into the 7/8 boys' rack with a couple of other baby items; apparently someone had picked them up and abandoned them later. I moved them back to their proper space, and lo and behold, my dress sold that day -- a Sunday shopper got a great deal because earlier shoppers hadn't seen the item.) 

My point is, with all the grabbing, moving, and re-stocking of items in the course of a regular sale day, it's possible that a very desirable item just never gets seen by the people who would want to purchase it...and then someone comes along on Saturday or Sunday and strikes gold.

  • Tip: If you're looking for some truly amazing deals, visit on Sunday (I often go back Sunday even after shopping the Sellers' Sale on Thursday!). Many items are half price that day (sellers don't want to take things home, after all), and the deals can be incredible! (Note that it's up to the individual seller whether items are marked down for Sunday, so don't expect everything to be half off.)

7. Find childcare if at all possible! While kids are obviously allowed at the event, I guarantee that you will have a MUCH better shopping experience if you can avoid bringing yours along. The aisles are narrow and full of people -- little ones on foot can easily get lost in the shuffle, and little ones in strollers can cause congestion, grab items off the rack, and run into lots of ankles. If you have a toddler or older, all the toys sitting out could lead to a "But I neeeeed it!!" meltdown. I've brought Toddler X and Baby X as babies in carriers once or twice, but man, if I can avoid it, I do. 

Those are my sale preparation tips! Now for tips at the sale itself:

8. Prioritize! (This particularly applies to Friday/Sunday mornings, when lots of people enter at the same time.) Certain things seem to go very quickly at these sales -- notably, the "big ticket" items that are attractively priced (sellers determine their own prices, so you could find nearly identical strollers priced $20 apart -- well-priced large items will go fast!). People also seem to grab the good shoes quickly.

  • Tip 1: If you need/want something very specific (particularly a specific big ticket item -- a Melissa and Doug piano, a Hape dollhouse, a double stroller, whatever), then search for that first. If big ticket items aren't on your list, look for your very specific clothing/shoe needs that are pretty easy to spot (a boys' raincoat in Size 3T, Hanna Andersson Christmas pajamas, Keens in Size 12, that type of thing) right away with a quick walk through/scan -- you can circle back to look for less specific needs. Finally, if your clothes/shoes needs are more general -- Size 2 or 3 t-shirts, Size 7 sneakers, etc. -- head back to sort through the racks in more detail.
  • Tip 2: I wouldn't focus on books or basic toys (unless there's something very specific you want) at the outset -- books take too long to go through, and for the toys, you'll often find 20 of a single popular item, so there's no real rush (though if price is a big issue and you want to comparison shop between different consignors' prices, then head over there on the early side).

9. Pay attention to clothing size sections. This will be less relevant with sizes like 2T and 3T, but I noticed for the younger (month) sizes and brands that don't go with standard sizing (like European brands that use centimeters instead of sizes, or brands like Boden that go with 4-5Y or 5-6Y) that the same sized items could be found in different areas. For example, with items sized 12-18 months, sometimes I would find them in the section for 12 months, and sometimes in the section for 18 months; likewise, with a Boden 7-8Y, one consignor could place it in Size 7, and another in Size 8. Finally, you also have items that just run big or small.
  • Tip: If there's a certain size you're looking for, also take a look one size up and one size down to catch items with different ranges, misplaced items, or items that run big/small.
10. Grab items that look good as you go. If you shop at a crowded time (like Friday morning), the aisles between the clothing racks will be packed with shoppers, strollers, wagons, and all other manner of creatures and conveyances. You will be passing and getting passed from all directions, and it's kind of chaotic. This isn't the place to stop to compare two items to each other, measure length, or really contemplate your purchase. 
  • Tip: At a crowded time, don't spend too much time considering any one item. If it looks like something you would want, grab it, put it in your bag, and keep moving. After you've gotten through the section, you can pull aside and sort through your bag, keeping the things you actually want to buy, and returning the rest -- they have discard racks set aside near the checkouts for that purpose. (PLEASE be courteous and use the discard racks, rather than putting things back in the wrong place or just leaving them in a heap on the floor! It's unfair to consignors to prevent their items from being seen by other potential buyers, or to get them wrinkled and thereby make them less attractive.) Keep in mind that, with heavy crowds, if you skip an item on your first pass, there's a good chance that it will be gone by the time you come back, so grab things you like on the first go-round.
11. Glance through the sections for the opposite gender. While so many kids' clothes could work for either gender, there's no unisex section, so people tend to just place their unisex items under whatever section they personally used it for. I actually found Toddler X's favorite North Face fleece in the girls' section (it's even labeled "Girls" -- don't tell him!), and it's identical to the one they made for boys. Likewise, things like Hanna Andersson pj's are completely gender neutral. And if your kiddo loves items that (stupidly) are often marketed for a certain gender -- Baby X can't get enough of dinosaurs and robots, for example -- it's worth a trip to those racks.
  • Tip: If you have enough time, check out both sections to ensure that you've found all the great deals!
12. Check items thoroughly before purchasing. I like to think that sellers never intentionally sell stained or damaged items -- I know I don't -- but we're all human and usually trying to get our sorting/tagging done with kids demanding our attention, or in the evening after bedtime (when the natural light that allows for the best stain checks is lacking). Likewise, the LM volunteers do their best to ensure that the items they allow on the floor are clean, free of holes and stains, with all their buttons and pieces and whatnot. Nonetheless, things can get missed and sometimes, in the indoor light, it's hard to see things like stains. 
  • Tip: Don't forget to do a FULL check of all your items before making your final purchase. Hold them up in the light, ask someone else for their opinion, do whatever it takes to make sure that the item is in the condition you want, because once you purchase, there are no returns.
  • Another tip: That being said, think about the purpose for which you'll be using the item and how good the deal is in assessing if a small stain or pinhole is a deal-breaker. I picked up a Tea dress I loved at the last sale, then found a tiny stain during my final review. I allllmost passed it by -- I mean, who wants a stained dress? -- but ultimately decided to buy it. Guess what? Baby X has worn it a TON this summer -- it's one of our favorites -- and the spot is completely unnoticeable unless you look really, really hard. I'm glad I didn't skip it just because of a minor flaw.
13. Have a smartphone ready to check toy prices. With the blog and my toy list, I'm pretty attuned to the toy market, particularly for nice Hape, Melissa and Doug, and Green Toys toys, but I still find it valuable to have my phone with me at sales to check the retail prices on items before deciding to purchase. I've scored "like new" Green Toys trucks for $5 and $7, as well as a Melissa and Doug latches board and a couple of puzzles for less than a quarter of retail. For those not as sure what toys are priced at usually, it makes sense to look up the retail cost to compare to the offerings at the sale.

So there you go -- my tips for getting the best deals and having the best possible experience at Lollipop Market! I have bought so many of my kids' favorite clothes, shoes, books, and toys there over the last 5 years, and I have no doubt you'll find gems too. I hope you have a good experience, and I'm totally open to adding any tips readers might have, so contribute away!

Happy shopping!
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** Saturday 12/8 edit: Don't miss today's Green Toys Deal of the Day! Some of the best prices I've ever seen on some of our very favorite toys! Enjoy!! **

Here we go again! The holidays are officially here, with countless opportunities for merriment, frivolity, and general goodwill, and it's my goal to capture them all in this SIXTH (!!) Annual SV Toddler Holiday Planner!

This is very much a work in progress, but I wanted to get it published ASAP because the fun begins tomorrow, with construction of the largest Lego Menorah in California! Please check back frequently for updates -- I'll be adding to this every day, and fleshing out later weeks in the month as we move along.

By all means, please share with friends, family, moms' groups, etc. -- the more people who see this, the more I feel that my efforts are worthwhile.

Finally, as you do your shopping this holiday season -- and anytime of year! -- please check out my posts with book and toy ideas and emergency prep tips here on the blog and on my Facebook Page. You can also head to Amazon for all your shopping needs via this affiliate link. Thanks for your support!

And here we go!

Ongoing Events

  • Christmas in the Park, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose. Daily through December 25th, 9 a.m. - Midnight. Check calendar for specific events. Free.
  • Winterfest, Great America, Santa Clara. Specific dates through December 31st. Check link for details. 
  • Gardens @ Night Holiday, Gilroy Gardens. Specific dates through December 31st. Check link for details. 
  • Fantasy of Lights, Vasona Park, Los Gatos. Walk-thru December 1st and 2nd. Drive-thru most dates from December 4th through December 30th. See link for details. 


Wednesday, November 28th
  • Build a Lego Menorah (the largest in CA!), APJCC, Los Gatos. 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Free, but registration is required. 

Thursday, November 29th

Friday, November 30th

Saturday, December 1st

Sunday, December 2nd


Monday, December 3rd

Tuesday, December 4th

Wednesday, December 5th

Thursday, December 6th

Friday, December 7th

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th




Monday, December 10th

Tuesday, December 11th

Wednesday, December 12th

Thursday, December 13th

Friday, December 14th

Saturday, December 15th

Sunday, December 16th
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If you've followed SV Toddler for any length of time, you know that I'm a big fan of high-quality, long-lasting toys that promote creativity and exploration, encourage critical thinking, build problem-solving skills, can be used in a number of different child-directed ways, and are just plain fun for whole family play (I know my kids will want me to join them, so I only buy toys that I'll enjoy too!).

With these requirements, there are certain categories of toys that we consistently choose (and love!): pretend play items, board games and puzzles, art and music makers, and, of course, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math, if you're not familiar with the acronym)-related toys. Among the various STEM subcategories, building sets are some of our favorites, and magnetic building toys top the list.

Over the past five years, we've accumulated quite a stockpile of magnetic toy sets -- Tegu, MagnaTiles, and SmartMax, mostly -- and they're favorites of both of my kids (currently 6.5 and 2 years old). Each brand has its own benefits and challenges, and different sets are better tailored to different interests, abilities, and uses, but I can heartily recommend each of them to you.


Here's a review/explanation of Tegu blocks, with pictures and recommendations (and, if I can get my act together, some video from my kids showing how the sets work and interact). I'll add similar posts about MagnaTiles and SmartMax, and link them so that you can compare and contrast.

I hope this is helpful to you! Happy building!



(Affiliate links)

Tegu

Tegu blocks were our first set of magnetic building toys, purchased as a Christmas gift when Toddler X was just shy of 2 years old. I adored them from the get-go -- they're lovely to look at, feel great in your hands, have an earth/community-friendly story, and offer a bunch of seriously fun building options and challenges for kids and adults alike.

Early on, Toddler X experienced some frustration figuring out the magnetic element (see below for an explanation of why it's tricky), and was as likely to just stack them as he was to connect them. But he soon started to understand polarity and magnet placement (what a joy it was to see that light coming on in his head!), and by the time he was three, he loved them. Over the years, we've added four or five more sets of different sizes, grabbing them whenever we see a great deal. (Amazon has them as Deals of the Day several times a year -- I try to post about them when I see them.) Now, at just over two years old, Baby X plays with our Tegu blocks every day (magnetic building toys are the only toys we consistently keep in our family room), and when she and Toddler X (4.5 years older than her) are playing together, it's most likely with these.

Tegu blocks are an expensive investment, but SO so worth it -- we've been playing with ours consistently for the last five years, and they're in the same condition as the day we opened the boxes, with countless hours of learning and creativity in the meantime. These, along with our other magnetic building sets, are the toys most likely to bring our whole family to the carpet to play together, and I have no doubt we'll continue to play with them for years to come. Here are the details:



The Blocks: Tegu blocks are constructed of responsibly-sourced hardwood from Honduras, with magnets embedded within. The finish is a water-based lacquer -- there's no lead and no plastic.

The blocks are indexed to a 30 mm cube -- the basic piece in a Tegu set -- and, in addition to the cubes, include planks, pillars, triangles, parallelograms, rhombuses, trapezoids, and wheels (not all shapes come in every set -- more on what sets I recommend below). The small pillars are as long as three cubes, and the large pillars are as long as 6. The mini planks are the length of two cubes, the medium planks are four, and the large planks are 7. The angled pieces match up accordingly, and all work together beautifully.

Various color schemes are available -- my personal favorites (they're what we started with, and bought everything else to match) are Tints and Jungle (which goes nicely with Tints); they also have plain light wood and plain mahogany (in a few sets), as well as several newer mixed-shade schemes (I'm loving Blossom and Blues). In the past few years, Tegu has added new sets that allow you to construct a specific vehicle or character (like a robot or monster) -- we don't have any of these sets yet, so I can't comment on them, though the reviews look good.

Tegu blocks are smooth and solid, with slightly curved edges. They feel wonderful in your hands -- you can sense the quality when you hold them or see them attach to each other.

The Magnets: Tegu's magnets -- their strength, polarity, and placement -- are a big part of what makes these blocks unique. They're embedded within the hardwood, completely invisible from the outside -- I have to say that it's very hard to figure out how they even got them in there, as there's no seam or opening to be seen. I have felt completely comfortable letting Baby X play with (and mouth) Tegu blocks since infancy -- there is NO way I could imagine a magnet getting out of one of these!

Tegu magnets are strong, polarized, and located in specific spots in each piece. While the cubes are magnetized on all six sides, the planks are only magnetized at the two ends (the large one has an extra magnet in the middle), and the columns only at the head and foot. The angled pieces each have specific magnet locations as well. Each magnet in each piece is polarized, meaning that you can't just attach any magnetized spot to any other -- you may need to flip a piece to find the parts that attract (and it's fun to play around with the pieces that repel). There is no doubt if you're in the right spot -- the magnets are strong, so when they attract, they really attract, and come together with a very satisfying click. Once they're attached, you have to give a solid tug to get them apart -- you can spin or swing them (gently, of course) without them falling apart.

The Tegu magnets' strength, polarity, and special placement make these blocks amazing and unique, but also make them challenging to work with. For very young kids, finding the location of the magnets within each block can be tough at first, and then it can be even tougher when the polarity is off and the magnets repel, rather than attract. I have even seen some of my adult friends get frustrated when trying them for the first time at our house, and when I hear people who are not fans talk about the blocks, it relates to the difficulty figuring out the connections. But the intellectual challenge and the need to overcome frustration to creatively solve design problems are exactly why I love these blocks. Figuring them out yourself is very satisfying -- watching your kids find solutions is even more so!



What you can build: Tegu blocks are great for building abstract stand-alone designs (a boat, a plane, an animal, a robot, a person skiing, whatever) and frames of buildings. You can't build a solid building with walls and floors using these blocks. However, what you can do, since the magnets are so strong, is build at angles -- you can have a piece sticking out horizontally, and another hanging down from that, only supported by one connection on the other side. We've attached pieces to our refrigerator and metal baby gates, sticking out parallel to the floor, and then built down from those. You can also swing pieces around at a pivot point, making windmills or plane props or whatever. There is a LOT of room for creativity with these.



Some of the ways my kids (and I) have used them:
  • Creating building frames with various room dividers and declaring the structure a house, a grocery store, a pet store, a furniture store, etc., then filling the rooms with furniture from a dollhouse, cars, small animal figures, or play food from the kitchen. (Toddler X loved to do this in the 3 - 4 age range -- Baby X isn't quite there yet, but I know it's coming).
  • Coming up with challenges for each other -- make a person, an elephant, a car, etc. -- and then seeing how accurate we could make it (keep in mind that Tegu figures are generally pretty abstract). (Or, similarly, building things and then making the other person guess what we've built.)
  • Building cars (we have several wheel sets) and trying to see how large we could make them and still get them to work (his dollhouse dolls were the drivers).
  • Just playing around with the various blocks to test gravity and magnet strength -- so many physics lessons to be learned with these things! I often sit on the floor while the kids play and just fiddle with the blocks -- five years later, I'm still making fun discoveries!
  • And, of course, building really cool, complex, super sturdy structures.
Why we love them: Tegu blocks are perfect for people who like to invest in high-quality, long-lasting toys that have endless play options. (And by "long-lasting", I mean both durable and able to hold a kid's interest for years at a time.) They're lovely to look at, and feel wonderful in your hands. I personally think they offer the greatest intellectual challenge of the any of our building sets and encourage the most creative play -- there are so many ways you can build with them. Oh, and did I mention that they're just plain fun?

What sets are available: Tegu offers a bunch of different set sizes, each of which contains a different mix of block shapes and added features. Here's a summary of what's available and links to learn more -- I'll give my recommendations in the next section:
  • Basic sets in a number of different sizes/color schemes: Tegu offers sets with a variety of block shapes in quantities ranging from 14 pieces to 52 pieces (beyond that, there are even 90 and 130 piece classroom sets!). Here are the options:
    • 14 piece set (available in Natural, Blossom, Blues, Sunset, and Tints color schemes): This set contains two cubes, two medium columns, four small planks, four medium planks, and two angled pieces (both parallelograms). List price for these sets is right around $35, but you can almost always find at least one of the color schemes for less (at this writing, Tints is $26.96, while the others are right around $35). Here's a look at your options for this size -- the prices listed with these pictures are current, and you can click through to learn more:

          
        
    • 24 piece set (available in Natural, Blossom, Blues, Jungle, Sunset, and Tints color schemes): Compared to the 14 piece set, this set doubles the number of cubes (to four) and short columns (also four) that you receive. It adds on two more short planks (for a total of six), and -- this is a biggie -- includes four of the long planks (which have three magnetized points) too. Like the 14 piece set, the 24 piece set has just two angled pieces (parallelograms). List price is right around $65, but you can almost always find deals on some color scheme or other (right now they range from $45.46 - $65.99). Here's a look at your options for this size -- the prices listed with these pictures are current, and you can click through to learn more:

        
        
    • 42 piece set (available in Natural, Blossom, Blues, Sunset, and Tints): This set offers pretty much everything from the smaller sets, plus a good bit more. You get six of the cubes, six each of the short, medium, and long planks, four of the short columns, and two parallelograms. However, there are three significant shape additions at this package size: long columns (you get four of them), wheels (four of those too), and four more angled pieces (trapezoids), which give you a LOT more building options. This set lists for around $110, but as with the others, you can usually find one color scheme that's significantly less (right now, Blues and Blossom are $88.00). Here's a look at your options for this size -- the prices listed with these pictures are current, and you can click through to learn more:

          
        
    • 52 piece set (available in Natural and Tints): While all of the preceding sets just added on pieces/shapes as they increased in quantity, the 52 piece set goes a totally different direction, eliminating all the angled pieces and columns and just going with cubes and different length planks. List price is $125-$140. I don't recommend this set as a primary set, so I won't bother with additional links -- you can click the link at the start of this bullet for more info.
  • Pocket pouches (available in a bunch of different shades, including Mahogany, which you can't find in the bigger sets, but which is super pricey): Tea offers two sizes of "pocket pouches" -- 6 pieces and 8 pieces -- which comprise small blocks, enclosed in a cute little felt pouch for mobile use. The 8 piece set includes four cubes and four small planks, while the 6 piece set is all about the angles, with four triangles and two parallelograms. Prices on these are all over the board, depending on which size and color scheme you choose, but you..
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It's here! With daytime highs finally dropping into the 70's and four pumpkin patches already under my belt, I'm feeling motivated to get my 2018 Fall Planner posted. This is, as always, a work in progress -- I'll add to it as I have time (and discover more events!). I'm starting with this weekend ('cause it's the most urgent) and I'll go from there.

Now head out and celebrate the best season of the year!!

(P.S. Looking for costumes, decor, candy, books, anything Halloween-related at all? Here's an affiliate link to Amazon's Halloween Store, a one-stop shop for all your fall needs! Thanks for shopping with SV Toddler!)

Friday, October 5
Saturday, October 6
    Sunday, October 7
    More to come!!!!! 
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    Some of my Lollipop Market finds from last Spring!
    The Lollipop Market -- an upscale kids'/women's resale event -- is coming up this weekend (Friday and Saturday from 9-5, Sunday from 10-3) at Cambrian Park Plaza in San Jose, and I'm taking a break from tagging the items that I'm selling (so. much. stuff!) to give you my tips and tricks for a fun and fruitful shopping experience.

    I've shopped at this bi-annual sale since the Spring 2013 event, and I've sold at the sale since Spring 2014. I've bought items from almost every category -- tons of kids' clothes, shoes, baby gear (an excellent condition Beco for $15 and a beautiful Maclaren stroller for $30!), toys, books (I remember grabbing one of our favorites, Trashy Town, on half-price day a few years ago), DVDs (Alice in Wonderland and Little Mermaid both came from Lollipop!), and more.

    More of last Spring's LM finds!
    Watching the sale grow (this is the biggest sale yet, by number of items consigned) and change (including adding women's clothing and accessories) over the past few years has definitely given me some insights into finding great deals on name brand items that have been gently used by other kids. Here are my thoughts on how to get the most out of your Lollipop Market experience:

    1. Clear out space. If you're already a seller at the consignment event, this is a no-brainer. As you prepared your items for sale, you no doubt pulled out previous seasons' clothing, shoes, etc., as well as older toys, games, and books, to see if they still fit your needs. If they didn't, you listed them, tagged them, and packed them off to find new homes at the sale -- leaving your home with space for new finds.

    If you're not a seller, and you didn't do a big clean out at the change of seasons (there's a reason these sales take place in the spring and fall!), take a minute to go through your child's closet and see what you can weed out.

    • Tip: Toddler X HATES it when I ask him to try on clothes to see if they fit, so rather than bribe him through fitting after fitting, I simply pull one item from each category that I know currently fits, have him try it on to confirm, then use it as a guide to evaluate other items. For example, if I have him try on a pair of jeans and they're exactly the right length, then I know that anything shorter is too short; same with t-shirts, polo shirts, button-downs, sweatshirts. 
    • Tip: If something is clearly seasonal -- say, a lightweight dress for Baby X -- and she's almost out of it in September, then she definitely will be by next April, so I go ahead and pull it now (and throw it in a bin labeled "Sell in Spring" -- never too early to start getting ready!).

    Whether you plan to sell your outgrown items, hand them down to friends, or donate them, it's a good idea to do the clean-out before the next stage of preparation, which is...

    2. Inventory, inventory, inventory! Now that you've gotten rid of what you don't need, it's time to figure out what you have so you can come up with a list of what you do need.

    Consignment sales are lots of fun, and the prices can be incredible, so it's easy to get carried away. At some of my early consignment outings, I'd be super excited to come home with five pairs of nice shorts...only to look in Toddler X's drawer and discover that, oops! I already had five pairs of nice shorts! Or I'd buy a size or two ahead with absolutely no idea of what I already had in my stash at home, and end up with six pairs of Size 5 jeans...when he was only three years old.

    I've learned my lesson, and now I'm happy to say that I have it down to a science.

    • Tip: Before any sale, I set a HARD maximum on the number of sizes ahead that I'm willing to buy, and I pledge that I won't set foot in a section beyond that. For example, Baby X is in 18-24 months or 2T right now -- at this sale, I'll let myself look up to 5 (and something would have to be pretty incredible for me to buy it at that size), but not beyond.

    With those parameters in mind, it's pretty easy to inventory our stash.

    • Tip: Grab all the items in a category -- shorts, short sleeve tees, long sleeve tees, sweatshirts, sneakers, etc. -- lay them out on the bed, and snap a picture, then label the picture with the size of the items. Depending on how many clothes you have -- and how big a bed! -- you could do this by size or by category. In other words, a picture of ALL of your child's long sleeve tees, with size labels on the picture (I just use the photo edit feature on my phone), or a picture of ALL your child's Size 6 clothes, regardless of category. Then do the same for Size 7 and Size 8 (or whatever size you've decided to buy through). At the sale, as you're considering a purchase, you can just pull up the photo and check whether you already have a black fleece in Size 6 or khaki shorts in Size 8 -- no need to rely on your memory (mine is notoriously faulty these days).

    Taking an inventory before the sale is the best way to prevent yourself from buying a whole bunch of things that you don't need. And, on the flip side, it helps with the next step, which is...

    3. Make a List of What You Need/Don't. Again, this is something I learned after early consignment experiences had me coming home with six pairs of pajamas in the next size, only to find that I already had several. ("But they were so cute! The prices were so good! How could I pass them up?") You WILL find cute things at consignment sales, and the prices WILL be good, so you need to give yourself parameters of what you will and will not allow yourself to buy.

    • Tip: My personal practice is to make a three category list for each kid: (i) Things we really need, (ii) things to buy if they're particularly great, and (iii) things NOT TO BUY NO MATTER WHAT. For Baby X, pajamas currently fall into that last category. I have no problem with her wearing Toddler X's pajamas, and given that I love nicer pajamas, all of his old ones are in great shape. We literally have a full bin of pajamas for her all the way through 4T. No matter how cute, no matter what the brand, no matter what the price, I do NOT allow myself to buy her pajamas.

    For Baby X right now, for example, my must-have list includes Uggs in Size 7 or 8, Natives in Size 6, a Gap jean jacket in 3T, layering tees to get her summer dresses into fall/winter, a few cardigans, and maybe a sweatshirt or two (and who am I kidding -- I'll also buy all the Tea dresses I can find, because I'm just obsessed). Toddler X could use a sweatshirt or two, a nice sweater, and a few pairs of shoes. These things are on my "actively searching for" list.

    Having looked ahead two sizes, I also know what we already have for next spring and summer, so things I like in those sizes, but don't already own, go in the "buy if they're particularly great" category. And, like I said, there's a hard stop on things that we already have a million of.

    Having that list helps me make more clear-headed decisions when I find myself looking at the world's cutest pajamas...which will look great on somebody else's kid, I think, as I hang them back on the rack.

    4. Measure or Bring a Template. This sounds goofy, but it's important to remember that not all brands fit alike, and with dryer shrinkage and pattern differences, even the same size in the same brand can fit totally differently.

    • Tip 1: I measure the inseam of a pair of Toddler X's pants that fits perfectly right now and a dress of Baby X's that's on the shorter end, and don't buy anything that measures shorter (yes, I bring a tape measure to the sale). Same with shoulder to hem length on tees, and length on shoes (the same size in different brands can be TOTALLY different in length). Jot the lengths down and use them as a guide while you shop, or -- another tip -- measure them with a length of ribbon and just bring the ribbon along (works best if you only have one kid).
    • Tip 2: When shopping, just eyeball length while you're among the racks -- that's not the time/place to measure. Once you've gone through, find a space off to the side, measure the shortest pair to see if it fits your correct length, then just measure the other pants/dresses against that, rather than individually measuring each one.

    5. Do some research on pricing. This is particularly relevant at an upscale sale like Lollipop Market. If you're on the lookout for higher-end brands, it's worth knowing what they sold for originally in assessing whether you're getting a good deal at the sale. Brands like Tea Collection, Mini Boden, Mathilda Jane, Alice & Ames, etc. can be pricey when new -- like, $30 for a t-shirt or $50 for a dress pricey -- and various European/boutique brands can be even higher (look up Burberry Kids or Well Dressed Wolf -- eek!). A great deal on one of those brands would be higher than a great deal on an item from Gap or Gymboree (also available at this sale), and your re-sale potential (like, what you could re-sell it for after your kids wear it) might be as high with one of those luxury brands as what you paid (so you're basically just renting the item -- or at least that's what I tell myself). I've heard people gasp, "What?!? This used dress is $15 -- are you kidding me?" -- but if the dress is in great condition and was $60 new, then that could still be an excellent deal. Hop online if you have a moment to do some preliminary research. Regardless, know that the only good deal is something that your kids will actually use/enjoy, so resist the urge to buy just because the price seems right.

    6.  Plan the Best Time for Your Visit. This is an easy one for the consignors -- part of the reason we choose to sell at these sales is so we can access the sellers' sale the night before the events open to the public. But if you're not selling at a particular event, you need to decide when to visit over the course of the weekend. Lollipop Market, for example, is open to the public from 9-5 on Friday and Saturday and from 10-2 on Sunday, and shopping at each time has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Friday morning is obviously when the most inventory will be available. The only people who have shopped before you are the sellers/pre-sale passes, so there will be a LOT of items for sale at amazing prices. People grab the "low hanging fruit" (or lower-priced great items) first, so the earlier you get there, the more likely you are to find deals.

    Because of this, however, you're also more likely to find crowds, and the small-ish space gets congested fast. Some people thrive in that environment -- others hate it. Consider whether you get a rush from competing for the best items/deals or if it will just stress you out, and figure out a balance that works for you. (If you have very specific wants/needs, you should shop earlier than if your searches are more general or you just want to browse.) 

    Later on Friday, there will be fewer items to choose from (though still plenty of good stuff -- I know this, because I've shopped Sunday and found incredible deals then!), but also less congestion. Saturday morning will likewise be more congested than Saturday afternoon, and Sunday the same (Sunday morning will be crowded because of the shoppers looking for half-off deals, Sunday afternoon will be low key).

    Now, if you're worried that you won't find anything good if you can't (or would rather not) be there bright and early Friday morning, nothing could be further from the truth! At last fall's sale, I was out of town until the Saturday of the sale weekend. I didn't get to shop AT ALL until Sunday. And yep, I walked out of there with five or six items that I was downright delighted about -- a lot fewer items than my usual haul, but with just as high a satisfaction level. They were items that people likely passed over because the original prices were high, but the sellers had (wisely) decided to mark them down to half price for Sunday, so I ended up with great finds for great prices. 

    And it's not just Sunday that produces winners. During a sale, people grab more items off the rack than they eventually end up buying, and despite the best efforts of volunteers, sometimes those non-purchased items don't make it back to the proper spots on the racks right away (or ever!). As a result, these items could be missed by early shoppers, while a later shopper might luck out. (I know this occurs because it happened to me -- as a seller -- at a different sale last year. Shopping on Sunday, I found a 6-12 month dress of mine smushed into the 7/8 boys' rack with a couple of other baby items; apparently someone had picked them up and abandoned them later. I moved them back to their proper space, and lo and behold, my dress sold that day -- a Sunday shopper got a great deal because earlier shoppers hadn't seen the item.) 

    My point is, with all the grabbing, moving, and re-stocking of items in the course of a regular sale day, it's possible that a very desirable item just never gets seen by the people who would want to purchase it...and then someone comes along on Saturday or Sunday and strikes gold.

    • Tip: If you're looking for some truly amazing deals, visit on Sunday (I often go back Sunday even after shopping the Sellers' Sale on Thursday!). Many items are half price that day (sellers don't want to take things home, after all), and the deals can be incredible! (Note that it's up to the individual seller whether items are marked down for Sunday, so don't expect everything to be half off.)

    7. Find childcare if at all possible! While kids are obviously allowed at the event, I guarantee that you will have a MUCH better shopping experience if you can avoid bringing yours along. The aisles are narrow and full of people -- little ones on foot can easily get lost in the shuffle, and little ones in strollers can cause congestion, grab items off the rack, and run into lots of ankles. If you have a toddler or older, all the toys sitting out could lead to a "But I neeeeed it!!" meltdown. I've brought Toddler X and Baby X as babies in carriers once or twice, but man, if I can avoid it, I do. 

    Those are my sale preparation tips! Now for tips at the sale itself:

    8. Prioritize! (This particularly applies to Friday/Sunday mornings, when lots of people enter at the same time.) Certain things seem to go very quickly at these sales -- notably, the "big ticket" items that are attractively priced (sellers determine their own prices, so you could find nearly identical strollers priced $20 apart -- well-priced large items will go fast!). People also seem to grab the good shoes quickly.

    • Tip 1: If you need/want something very specific (particularly a specific big ticket item -- a Melissa and Doug piano, a Hape dollhouse, a double stroller, whatever), then search for that first. If big ticket items aren't on your list, look for your very specific clothing/shoe needs that are pretty easy to spot (a boys' raincoat in Size 3T, Hanna Andersson Christmas pajamas, Keens in Size 12, that type of thing) right away with a quick walk through/scan -- you can circle back to look for less specific needs. Finally, if your clothes/shoes needs are more general -- Size 2 or 3 t-shirts, Size 7 sneakers, etc. -- head back to sort through the racks in more detail.
    • Tip 2: I wouldn't focus on books or basic toys (unless there's something very specific you want) at the outset -- books take too long to go through, and for the toys, you'll often find 20 of a single popular item, so there's no real rush (though if price is a big issue and you want to comparison shop between different consignors' prices, then head over there on the early side).

    9. Pay attention to clothing size sections. This will be less relevant with sizes like 2T and 3T, but I noticed for the younger (month) sizes and brands that don't go with standard sizing (like European brands that use centimeters instead of sizes, or brands like Boden that go with 4-5Y or 5-6Y) that the same sized items could be found in different areas. For example, with items sized 12-18 months, sometimes I would find them in the section for 12 months, and sometimes in the section for 18 months; likewise, with a Boden 7-8Y, one consignor could place it in Size 7, and another in Size 8. Finally, you also have items that just run big or small.
    • Tip: If there's a certain size you're looking for, also take a look one size up and one size down to catch items with different ranges, misplaced items, or items that run big/small.
    10. Grab items that look good as you go. If you shop at a crowded time (like Friday morning), the aisles between the clothing racks will be packed with shoppers, strollers, wagons, and all other manner of creatures and conveyances. You will be passing and getting passed from all directions, and it's kind of chaotic. This isn't the place to stop to compare two items to each other, measure length, or really contemplate your purchase. 
    • Tip: At a crowded time, don't spend too much time considering any one item. If it looks like something you would want, grab it, put it in your bag, and keep moving. After you've gotten through the section, you can pull aside and sort through your bag, keeping the things you actually want to buy, and returning the rest -- they have discard racks set aside near the checkouts for that purpose. (PLEASE be courteous and use the discard racks, rather than putting things back in the wrong place or just leaving them in a heap on the floor! It's unfair to consignors to prevent their items from being seen by other potential buyers, or to get them wrinkled and thereby make them less attractive.) Keep in mind that, with heavy crowds, if you skip an item on your first pass, there's a good chance that it will be gone by the time you come back, so grab things you like on the first go-round.
    11. Glance through the sections for the opposite gender. While so many kids' clothes could work for either gender, there's no unisex section, so people tend to just place their unisex items under whatever section they personally used it for. I actually found Toddler X's favorite North Face fleece in the girls' section (it's even labeled "Girls" -- don't tell him!), and it's identical to the one they made for boys. Likewise, things like Hanna Andersson pj's are completely gender neutral. And if your kiddo loves items that (stupidly) are often marketed for a certain gender -- Baby X can't get enough of dinosaurs and robots, for example -- it's worth a trip to those racks.
    • Tip: If you have enough time, check out both sections to ensure that you've found all the great deals!
    12. Check items thoroughly before purchasing. I like to think that sellers never intentionally sell stained or damaged items -- I know I don't -- but we're all human and usually trying to get our sorting/tagging done with kids demanding our attention, or in the evening after bedtime (when the natural light that allows for the best stain checks is lacking). Likewise, the LM volunteers do their best to ensure that the items they allow on the floor are clean, free of holes and stains, with all their buttons and pieces and whatnot. Nonetheless, things can get missed and sometimes, in the indoor light, it's hard to see things like stains. 
    • Tip: Don't forget to do a FULL check of all your items before making your final purchase. Hold them up in the light, ask someone else for their opinion, do whatever it takes to make sure that the item is in the condition you want, because once you purchase, there are no returns.
    • Another tip: That being said, think about the purpose for which you'll be using the item and how good the deal is in assessing if a small stain or pinhole is a deal-breaker. I picked up a Tea dress I loved at the last sale, then found a tiny stain during my final review. I allllmost passed it by -- I mean, who wants a stained dress? -- but ultimately decided to buy it. Guess what? Baby X has worn it a TON this summer -- it's one of our favorites -- and the spot is completely unnoticeable unless you look really, really hard. I'm glad I didn't skip it just because of a minor flaw.
    13. Have a smartphone ready to check toy prices. With the blog and my toy list, I'm pretty attuned to the toy market, particularly for nice Hape, Melissa and Doug, and Green Toys toys, but I still find it valuable to have my phone with me at sales to check the retail prices on items before deciding to purchase. I've scored "like new" Green Toys trucks for $5 and $7, as well as a Melissa and Doug latches board and a couple of puzzles for less than a quarter of retail. For those not as sure what toys are priced at usually, it makes sense to look up the retail cost to compare to the offerings at the sale.

    So there you go -- my tips for getting the best deals and having the best possible experience at Lollipop Market! I have bought so many of my kids' favorite clothes, shoes, books, and toys there over the last 5 years, and I have no doubt you'll find gems too. I hope you have a good experience, and I'm totally open to adding any tips readers might have, so contribute away!

    Happy shopping!
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    Happy Friday, everyone! Here's the first installment in a new weekly series: my "Friday Five". Each week I'll pick a category of outings, adventures, or the like, and choose five favorites to share with you.

    This week's category: local farms (I'm not including petting zoos) where the animals are exceptionally outgoing and/or accessible -- basically, the best kind of farm when you're a kid! This isn't an exhaustive list, just a few outings that my family enjoys, and I hope you'll enjoy them too!

    Happy toddling!



    I've published a full review of this local gem and often post on Facebook about our many adventures there, so I'll keep this short and sweet: Ardenwood is home to some of the friendliest and most approachable (like, they welcome kids' attention, and are housed such that kids can really interact with them) animals around. 


    The sheep and goats at Ardenwood actually stroll over to greet visitors to their pens (and no, not because they're expecting food), and with wide openings in the fencing, it's easy to pet them. 


    The pigs' food bin is right at the edge of their pen, so kids can get a close up view of them grunting as they chow down (though keep little fingers away -- pigs can bite!), and the free-ranging chicken, turkeys, and even peacocks let little people get pretty close before scurrying away. I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy a trip to Ardenwood -- we've been going for years now, and every visit is a great one.




    Parking is free, and admission is $8 adults/$5 children ages 4-17, while kids 3 and under are free. Ardenwood is closed on Mondays. 

    In my opinion, Ardenwood is a must-see for Silicon Valley families -- if you haven't been, it's time to plan a trip.

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    Hidden Villa is one of our family's favorite outings, period. It has one of the best farm set-ups around (more on that below), plus a wonderful education garden, space to roam and explore, a creek for splashing, and shady hiking trails. More than anything, it's such a lovely, bucolic spot located just minutes from the traffic and congestion of Silicon Valley. Definitely a winner!


    As for the animals, though all (excepting the chickens) are in enclosures, they are very accessible for little visitors. The bars of the sheep's pen are wide apart and easy to peer through, and the sheep often hang out nearby for petting. 


    The goats, likewise, are very friendly. You can get super close to the HUGE pigs (located within the chicken enclosure), and they are very fun to watch, but -- as I mentioned for Ardenwood -- you definitely want to keep toddler hands from reaching in. (Super extra bonus if you visit shortly after a litter of piglets has arrived!)


    Finally, the chickens roam free within their huge enclosure (which you can enter), and boy, do kids love that! (Note that there is a no-admittance area for the chickens to escape to if they need a break.) The various animal areas are well spread across the farm, allowing for exploration in between the visits.


    Admission is free and parking is $8 (but worth it). Hidden Villa is closed on Mondays. (Note that if you'd like to actually go inside the animal pens, Hidden Villa has frequent paid programs and farm tours (see pic below for Toddler X snuggling one of their sheep at the Little Pumpkins Party several years ago). Check out their site for more information.


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    What a wonderful little farm this is -- a barnyard with a cause! The Smile Farm is run by Animal Assisted Happiness, a local nonprofit that aims to generate "a million smiles" and enrich the lives of youth with needs through barnyard animal encounters, both at the Sunnyvale farm and during mobile visits. Fortunately and generously, they open this wonderful spot to the public on a regular basis, and it's a can't miss activity if you have an animal-loving child.


    In terms of approachability, the animals here couldn't be sweeter -- they're used to working with special needs youth, and are calm and docile. In addition to the standard goats, sheep, and chickens, there are miniature horses, a miniature donkey, rabbits, and an alpaca. Volunteers are happy to introduce you to the animals, and occasionally bring them out of their pens to greet children. 


    Even in their pens, the animals are easily visible to toddlers, and sometimes the pens themselves are quite a treat to see! (Local scouts and charities create them as service projects.) 




    The farm also features lots of little paths for exploration, labeled vegetation, and pleasant spots to sit and relax, and just outside the gates is all the fun that Baylands Park has to offer.


    The Smile Farm is open to the public on Tuesday afternoons from 1-5 p.m. (that's when we visited, and it was peaceful and almost empty!) and the second Sunday of each month (that's this weekend, September 9th) from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Admission is free, but remember that this is a non-profit, run by volunteers, so donations are greatly appreciated! Parking at Sunnyvale Baylands Park is $6 from March through October, and free from November through February.

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    Little Farm is an absolute delight, and a return to the farm (and the rest of Tilden Park, with its hiking trails, carousel, train, and lakes) is high on our list of day trip to-dos. With respect to the farm, not only is the setting just wonderful -- a serene hillside within a large park -- but you can actually feed the animals!!! And not just handfuls of pellets -- real veggies (though a limited variety) that they actually enjoy!


    I've written a full review of Little Farm, which you can check out here, but to sum it up in one picture...well, you can't get much closer to a farm animal than having its huge tongue licking food from your hand!

    Admission and parking are both FREE, and the farm is open daily. A bunch of wins with this one, the only negative being the drive.

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    Some people love Emma Prusch Farm Park, some people don't, but it's hard to find a kid who's not amused by chickens running around a playground, and this is the only place I can think of where you'll find that phenomenon in the South Bay. 


    The park is large and multi-faceted, with a huge lawn, picnic areas, orchards, a playground (which can get really crowded, is distinctly not toddler-friendly, and is in serious need of an upgrade), an adjacent community garden (Veggielution -- worth a post in its own right), and -- relevant here -- a little barnyard and a 4H barn.

    The "approachable" animals here aren't the barnyard pigs (keep little fingers out of that enclosure!) or the goats (they're perfectly fine, but not easy for kids to reach, and often so over-fed with the pellets that they'll actually reject handfuls of them -- kind of devastating for an excited toddler!). 


    Instead, it's the birds (chickens, geese, wild ducks, even peacocks) who are approachable -- or, more accurately, they will approach (okay, absolutely swarm) you if you spread some pellets on the ground or leave food in your stroller. Your child will either be delighted or terrified by the experience -- it's a toss up. 




    Kids generally do love chasing the free-ranging chickens outside the barnyard area, though, so if your child is squeamish, you may want to stick to that.


    You can also take a stroll into the 4H barn to see the pigs, sheep, and cows being raised by local students.

    Parking and admission at Emma Prusch are free, and the park is open daily (excepting a few holidays).

    That's it! Not an exhaustive list at all, but a few suggestions to get you started in your search for accessible/approachable animal friends!

    Have a great time, and happy toddling!
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