15 Easter Basket Gifts That Won’t Give Your Kid Cavities

Easter doesn't have to rot your children's teeth. Here are some non-chocolate gift ideas for Easter.

With Easter approaching, you could dash out to the nearest big-box store and grab one of those premade baskets off the shelf. That’ll do in a pinch, but in case you don’t want a basket full of colored straw and plastic Easter eggs full of sugary snacks, here are 15 Easter basket stuffers that will provide tons of fun for your kids — without causing a trip to the dentist.

1. Pals Socks

Pals Socks come paired as unlikely friends, like a cow and pig, dragon and unicorn and polar bear and penguin. These mismatched socks ($9 at PalsSocks.com) are vibrant and super-comfy. Kids and adult sizes available (in case you want a pair for yourself).

2. Little Live Pets Hedgehogs

The Little Live Pets Hedgehogs come in six colors and are a joy to play with. Touch their noses and they curl into a ball and then unfold when it’s time to play again. Three LR44 batteries are required (not included). They’re for ages 5 and up. A single pack is available for $10.39 at Toys R Us. (Toys R Us offers free in-store pickup for online orders. Here’s our list of retailers that offer this service.)

3. Kikkerland Carrot Erasers in Basket

Every child artist needs erasers. These tiny Kikkerland Carrot Erasers in Basket ($5 at Kikkerland.com) come in their own farmer’s market wicker basket. They erase like a charm and are so darn cute.

4. PJ Masks Mini Wheelie Vehicles

Fans of Disney Junior’s PJ Masks will love the PJ Masks Mini Wheelie Vehicles from Just Play. Catboy in his Cat-Car, Gekko in his Gekko-Mobile and Owlette in her Owl Glider, can roll and race and they are just the right size for their little fans to play with. Ages 3 and up. Each vehicle costs $6.97 at Walmart. (Frequent Wal-Mart shopper? You can find a review of its rewards credit card here.)

5. Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars

For something sweet(ish), the Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars ($5.29 on Amazon) are available in apple and strawberry and taste so good kids won’t guess they’re healthy. Plus, they’ll be excited to see the Sesame Street characters on the packaging.

6. Surprizamals

Surprizamals are full of surprises. These collectible mini-plushes live in a plastic ball and are irresistibly adorable. For ages 3 and up, Surprizamals cost $4.99 at StuffedAnimals.com.

7. Welch’s Easter Fruit Snacks

A great alternative to candy, Welch’s Easter Fruit Snacks are available in chick, egg, flower and bunny shapes for Easter. And good news, one pouch of Easter Fruit Snacks has seven grams of sugar, as opposed to a Cadbury Egg, which has 20 grams of sugar. A 28-count box costs $4.99 at Target (full review of its credit card here) and at grocery stores nationwide.

8. Watchitude

Watchitude watches make fun and functional use of the slap bracelet trend. Watchitudes ($21.99 at watchitude.com) are available in lots of fun patterns, from sports themes to desserts. The kids will definitely want to learn to tell time if they haven’t already. (It’s a good idea to also teach your kids about credit, including the importance of keeping a good credit score. You can check yours free at Credit.com.)

9. Chick in Egg Zipper Plush

The Chick in Egg Zipper Plush is a delightful Easter basket surprise. The soft polka-dot egg unzips to reveal a sweet little plush chick. For ages 3 and up, Chick in Egg costs $9.95 at Papyrus.com.

10. Chef’s Cut Real Snack Sticks

Stick a few of Chef’s Cut Real Snack Sticks in the Easter basket of your carnivore kid. These tasty jerky sticks ($16 for eight at ChefsCutRealJerky.com) come in flavors like Buffalo Chicken and Japaleño Cheddar (pork and beef).

11. Playfoam Sparkle 4-Pack

For kids who love to squish and squeeze things like slime and magic sand, the Playfoam Sparkle 4-Pack by Educational Insights will be their new favorite. The colorful, sparkly and moldable dough holds a shape and never gets dry.  For ages 3 and up, a 4-pack goes for $4.99 at EducationalInsights.com.

12. Little Kids Peeps Giant Bubble Wand Party Pack

With the Little Kids Peeps Giant Bubble Wand Party Pack ($14.99 for a six-pack at Amazon.com), there’s enough bubbly fun for everyone. Each colorful tube is topped with a cute Peep and includes four ounces of bubble solution.

13. aGreatLife Sweet Ice Cream Kite for Kids

The aGreatLife Sweet Ice Cream Kite for Kids is small enough for Easter baskets but big and bright in the sky. The kite comes with its own instructional eBook and has a lifetime guarantee. A great excuse to get outside, it’s available for $11.99 at Amazon.com.

14. Alex Shrinky Dinks Mini Artist Activity Set

A fun indoor activity if spring hasn’t yet sprung, the Alex Shrinky Dinks Mini Artist Activity Set ($9.99 at Toys R Us) includes three Shrinky Dinks pictures, two frames, two easels and six pencils. Bake the colored-in pictures to shrink and frame.

15. Yoee Baby

Perfect for baby’s first Easter, the Yoee Baby will keep baby entertained with a teething ring, furry friend, bright colors, a rattle and crinkly spots for squeezing. Designed specifically for the developing minds of babies. Yoee Baby is available for $24.99 at Yoeebaby.com.

Image: Portra

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Here’s Your Ultimate Spring Cleaning Shopping List

Spring cleaning is hard work. But with the right tools, sprucing up your home can take a little less elbow grease.

It’s been a long winter, and hibernating has not done us any favors — many of us have probably put off giving our caves a deep spring cleaning. But now that it’s (mostly) above freezing, it’s time to throw open those windows, let in some fresh air and get scrubbing.

A few friendly financial notes before you get going: While you’re sprucing up your home, it might be a good time to do the same with your finances. You can begin by getting a free credit report snapshot, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com. Also, be sure you don’t go overboard when it comes to buying Spring cleaning supplies. If you’re good about staying on budget, consider a solid shopping credit card to reap rewards off of your purchases. Just be sure to pay that balance off at the end of the month, so you don’t wind up losing those points, miles or cash back to interest.

With all that money stuff in mind, here’s what you need to know before you tackle the deepest clean of the year.

1. Spring Cleaning Tools

Sure, you’ve been vacuuming all along, but it’s time to go deeper. There’s no need to scrub on your hands and knees or wrestle with a mop. The Duop System ($29.99 and up) can be used with a handle or your hand. Created for professional cleaners, it’s designed to reduce the risk of injury while cleaning. The handle height is easy to adjust, whether you’re dusting the ceiling or washing the kitchen floor. The interchangeable microfiber pads, which come in a variety of sizes, can be used dry or wet, moistened with water or a mild cleanser.

For other areas, Leslie Reichert, green cleaning coach and author of The Joy Of Green Cleaning likes the General Purpose Cloth or the Kitchen Cloth from e-cloth ($7.99 each). Like the Duop, the cloths are microfiber so they often require nothing but water.

“If you have some spots that have a buildup of grease, you can spray the area with a touch of rubbing alcohol to break up the buildup and then wipe with the e-cloth,” she said. “The fibers in the cloth work to get underneath the dirt and lift it off without harming even delicate surfaces, like cabinets.”

As you move around the house with your Duop and e-cloth, bring your water in a lightweight bucket, like the colorful Kikkerland Collapsible Bucket ($10). When you’re done cleaning, it collapses flat for easy storage.

2. All-Purpose Cleaner

For tasks that require more than water, there’s no need to purchase a product with a long list of mysterious — and potentially toxic — ingredients. The Force of Nature Electrolyzed Cleaning Starter Kit ($59.95) converts salt, water and vinegar into a powerful cleaner by electrolyzing them. The kit includes everything you need to create several batches of non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaning solution. It also comes with travel-sized spray bottles to take on the go.

3. The Many Uses of Vinegar

Alyssa Kaldahl, merchandising manager at women’s apparel site Jane.com, suggests using vinegar for tough cleaning jobs. For instance, use equal parts vinegar and water on a sock to clean your blinds. Cleaning the fridge is a dreaded spring cleaning task, but here’s her fix.

“Throw away any expired food and then wipe down all the shelves and drawers with vinegar mixed with water in a spray bottle,” she said. “You can also add some lemon or other citrus essential oil to your mix if you want to leave a nice scent.”

To get out stubborn carpet stains, she suggests spraying the spot with one part vinegar and two parts water, putting a damp rag over the spot and ironing the rag. Repeat until stain is gone.

4. Homemade Stain Remover

Lisa Batra, founder of My Kid’s Threads, an online consignment shop for kids’ clothes, knows stains. She said while it’s ideal to treat a stain ASAP, her team often doesn’t know how long a stain has been there. They inspect about 1,000 items each week and have had success with a homemade stain-remover recipe:

Combine one tablespoon baking soda, four tablespoons dish soap and eight tablespoons hydrogen peroxide in a small container and stir well. “Apply directly to the stain and rub gently with your finger, a piece of fabric or an old toothbrush,” she said. “Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes and then wash normally.”

For surface stains, like on cabinets or counters, decluttering expert Kelly McClenahan, of the Live Uncluttered blog on PriceSelfStorage.com, suggests Mr. Clean MagicErasers ($5.76 at Walmart — check out our review of the Walmart credit card here).

“Use them to remove almost any surface stains, especially the burner areas of the flat-top stove and those occasional crayon marks you may find on your walls,” McClenahan said.

She also recommends using cotton swabs and old toothbrushes “to get down to the details with hard-to-reach, itty-bitty spaces.”

5. Get Organized

According to McClenahan, no spring cleaning is complete without sorting your stuff. “Box up items you no longer need in your home,” she said. “Separate things you want to keep, store, donate and trash.”

A great way to organize the items that you’re keeping but not using currently is to store them in boxes with labels. The Brother P-Touch Label Maker ($39.99 at Staples) is fun and easy to use. It has different fonts and modes to add your own flair. For storage boxes, my go-to is the Container Store, which carries boxes of virtually any size, shape or color.

If you’re worried more about your wallet than your abode as winter breaks, we’ve got 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start right here.

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8 Great Off-Registry Gifts to Give at a Baby Shower

Here are eight great off-registry gifts to give at a baby shower.

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4 Toy Trends Your Kids Will Love This Year

A look at the upcoming trends and coolest toys featured at Toy Fair New York.

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19 Last-Minute Valentine’s Gifts for Your Loved One

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8 Valentine’s Gifts for That Special Someone in Your Life

Here are some fun gift ideas for your special someone this Valentine's Day.

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Everything You Need for Your Best Super Bowl Party Ever

Here's how to throw a Super Bowl party with food on a budget.

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14 Last-Minute Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Here are 14 last-minute gifts for everyone on your list.

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21 Top Holiday Gifts Under $100 for Him or Her

We've rounded up 21 holidays gifts under $100.

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8 Black Friday Shopping Strategies

black-friday-tips-2016

Whether you’re a diehard tent-popper or stage a silent boycott every year, there’s no ignoring Black Friday. But are these deals as life-changing as we’re led to believe? Sometimes, yes, but in most cases, not really. After all, doorbuster discounts aren’t exclusive after Thanksgiving. In the past several years, retailers have held “Black Friday in July” sales, pre-holiday sales in October, and early bird sales the week before Black Friday.

Still, Black Friday is coming whether you like it or not. While some of you die-hards may have your strategy in place, newbies may need a tip or two if they plan to go shopping. Here are eight things to keep in mind as you prepare for Black Friday.

1. Make a List

Black Friday shopping can be overwhelming, so if you want to avoid going off the rails and buying a bunch of gifts you don’t need — or winding up in debt, which could drag down your credit — don’t keep your list in your head. Instead, use a gift-list app like Gifted (available on the Apple Store and Google Play) to keep track of recipients’ likes and dislikes, sizes, ideas and budgets.

2. Focus

Historically, the deepest Black Friday discounts are on electronics, apparel and beauty products, so instead of trying to conquer your holiday list in one day, focus on those three areas and tackle the other categories later. Also, since you still have plenty of time in the holiday shopping season to look for deals, go for only the deepest discounts (40% and up).

3. Sign Up for Store Emails

Now is a great time to sign up for emails from the stores you want to hit on Black Friday. You might be privy to advance details on sales or private discounts. Set up a separate free email account to capture that mail — there’s going to be a lot of it. Following stores on Twitter or Facebook can also keep you in the know.

4. Discounted Gift Cards

If you have a general idea of where you plan to shop, search online for “discounted gift cards (name of store),” and see what comes up. Many gift card merchants sell digital or printable gift cards that are discounted between 2% to 30%. Use that gift card to make a purchase, and you’ll save a bundle!

5. The Early Bird Bonus

If you’re game for getting up at the crack of dawn, you could be well-rewarded. In previous years, stores like H&M, Best Buy, JCPenney, Kohl’s & Kmart have handed out goodies like gift cards and even movie tickets to folks at the front of the line.

6. Consider Opening a Store Charge Account

Once you’ve made it to the store, you may consider asking about opening a store charge account to get an extra discount. While most stores offer 10% or 15% off your first purchase with a new account, some may have restrictions on sale days like Black Friday. If they don’t, you’ve scored an extra discount off of your Black Friday merch! Keep in mind, store cards usually have a high annual percentage rate (APR) so it’s a good idea to pay them in full. If you can’t, the rewards won’t be worth it. (Not sure if your finances can handle another credit card? You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

7. Divide & Conquer

If there’s a store where you need to get several items, see if you can find a friend to join you. Compare lists and help each other out. You can dash off to the electronics section to grab discounted Apple Watches, and they can check out those doorbuster beauty deals you read about.

8. Don’t Ignore the Internet

If you just can’t bear the thought of pounding the pavement and fighting the crowds for deals, stay in, grab a cup of coffee, and check out the online deals. E-commerce retailers like Amazon (see my shopping hacks here), Target, Wal-Mart, Newegg and Best Buy are your best bet, as year after year they have offered Black Friday deals. Those with physical stores (like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy) may have exclusive online deals.

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