2018 Holiday Shopping Guide For Four Year Olds

In previous years, I complied holiday shopping guides for when my son was two and when he was three.  Before creating this next list, I looked back, and I believe many of those items are still relevant, especially the Thomas table which my son periodically still uses to this day.

However, he’s older now, and his wants have changed.  Gone are the days of Thomas and now we have ushered in the days of Lightning McQueen.  With that in mind, and with other considerations, here is a list of items I do recommend for a four year for Christmas:

  1. Balance Bike with Helmet
  2. Boogie Board – not for the beach, one to write with
  3. Slot Cars
  4. Cars 3 Service Station or Mack’s Mobile Play Set
  5. Remote Control Car
  6. Thomasville Speedway Portable Set (bonus points for also being storage)
  7. Florida 500 Speedway
  8. Lego Juniors Sets
  9. Lego Table or Folding Table
  10. Board Games
    1. Candyland
    2. Connect Four
    3. Operation
    4. Pete the Cat Groovy Buttons Game
    5. Trouble
  11. Baseball Mitt
  12. Knee Hockey Set
  13. Portable Soccer Net and Soccer Ball
  14. Football Uniform Set and Nerf Football
  15. Paw Patrol Air Patroller
  16. Paw Patrol Sea Patroller
  17. Pig & Elephant Books
  18. Pete the Cat Books
  19. Pigeon Books
  20. Amed Rosario (or other player) Shirsey

For many of the aforementioned items, I included the Amazon link for ease of use.  I did this for two reasons: (1) everyone has access to Amazon; and (2) this late in the process, you have a better chance of getting something off the internet instead of at a store.  If you haven’t purchased the items yet, comparison shop to the best of your ability.

While I hope this list is helpful, we should always to remember to tailor what we buy for your child’s interests.  This is a large reason why I have only relisted one item from this year’s Top 25 Christmas Toys.

As always, please remember while you’re shopping, pick up a toy, no matter how small and donate it.

Breakfast With Santa Better Than A Mall Picture, Cyclones Breakfast Scheduled For 12/17

On Sunday December 17th, the Brooklyn Cyclones are hosting a Breakfast With Santa at MCU Park.  For $10 per person or just $30 for a family of four, this is an absolute steal.

If you are not sold, consider your typical Christmas picture with Santa.  You park only God knows where in a crowded mall parking lot.  After that, you have to wait in a long line with your children.  As we know the mall is hot, and your children are going to be cranky.  That crankiness goes up a level if you have them in a nice Christmas outfit.

This leaves you collecting winter jackets or imploring them to leave them on.  It’s a nightmare.  You then have to rally them when they get to the front of the line to stop being cranky, smile, and take a nice picture.  Depending on the age of your child, that may be a Herculean task because your child may be scared or intimidated.

For all that effort?  Well you get to take one picture which may or may not be good.  Even better, using the Short Hills Mall as an example, the whole exasperating experience will cost you $26 and up.

Instead of doing that, you could go to MCU Park and have an IHOP pancake breakfast.  You then get to do picture with Santa and the mascots.  Instead of standing in an interminable line, you child gets to do arts and crafts, have a story time, sing-a-longs, and have giveaways.

With this being 2017, the camera on your phone is more than good enough to take the picture yourself.  You can then order that picture through Walgreens, Snapfish, or Shutterfly for less than a buck.  Better yet, you can make that your Christmas card for the year.

Really, the question is why you would consider braving the malls this time of year instead of having Santa be a fun experience for your children.  It makes no sense whatsoever, and that is why you should elect to do Breakfast with Santa instead of the staged photo.

Even if you can’t make it to MCU Park, you should still seek out Breakfast with Santa options.  I did it once again this year, and I was thrilled with the result.

Even though the one I went to was more money than the one at MCU Park, it was still cheaper than a digital photo package from the mall.  On top of that, I had breakfast with the family and an overall fun day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: this was not a paid advertisement.  Rather, this is just strong advice based upon my experiences.

Happy Birthday

Can’t believe it’s been four years. 

I’m more proud of you than you’ll ever know. 

Happy Birthday. 

Missed Kid’s Birthday Party Etiquette 

For the second straight year, we had a last minute cancellation for my son’s birthday party. It’s quite understandable as life gets in the way. Children and parents get sick. People unexpectedly drop by, and there are family emergencies that need attention. 

Someone could just plum forget. It happens. 

The issue is what should you do when you have to miss a birthday party. 

Now, there are two different scenarios for this. The first is you’ve RSVP’s no to the party. In those instances, you can do whatever you want.

On a personal note, we treat each instance differently. If those kids have gone to my son’s party in the past, we’ll return the favor. They spent on a nice gift, and we’ll do the same. 

If they’ve never gone to a party for our son, depending on how close a friend the kid is, we may give a small gift like a busy book or nothing at all. 

The other scenario is where you’ve replied yes, but for whatever the case may be, you couldn’t make it to the party. 

What I’ve found to be odd is that in both situations, the late cancellation did not provide a birthday present. 

My presumption was that a gift is owed, and I’m not sure why people would feel otherwise. 

At that point, the parents have already undertaken the expense of your child’s attendance. This includes cost of the child to attend the event as well as the cost for the goodie bag. There are other minor factors as well such as ordering pizza, cake, cupcakes, etc. 

Bottom line is there was an expense paid upon your representation your child would attend. 

Considering you also likely purchased a gift, you probably should give the gift to the birthday boy or girl. 

Unless there’s some etiquette to the contrary of which I’m not aware, or there are real extenuating circumstances preventing the giving of the gift, giving a gift after a no-show or last minute cancellation should be considered an obligation. 

Noah Syndergaard Wins Another Round Over Mr. Met

If you’ve been on Twitter, you will notice the feud between Noah Syndergaard and Mr. Met.  During this rivalry of sorts, each party has given each other shots with Mr. Met perhaps landing the biggest shot between the two:

Well, it seems that Syndergaard has taken it up a notch by continuing in his quest to erase Mr. Met from all things Mets related.  It started with Mr. Met being removed from the blue alternate home and road jerseys prior to the start of the 2017 season.  Mr. Met was also removed from the team batting practice caps.

Even with the Mets having a dreadful season after the removal of Mr. Met from the uniforms, the team is still abiding by Syndergaard’s wishes in having Mr. Met remain off the Mets uniforms:

All kidding aside, it is bizarre the Mets or MLB wouldn’t reincorporate Mr. Met into the team uniforms.  The batting practice cap is really no different than the current blue alternate home cap.  By having the two hats the same, you’re really missing an opportunity to sell a different cap to fans.  At least on a theoretical level, this would increase sales.

More than that, there’s just a general sense of a complete lack of ingenuity.  Put another way, the Mets cap is boring.  It’d be great to see the Mets follow the suit of the Rockies (wearing the old logo for the old NHL team), the Blue Jays going with the Maple Leaf, or the Rays featuring the sunshine.

Overall, these batting practice caps should be fun, and you should want to run out and buy them when you see them in the store or presented online for the first time.  Personally, I look at the Mets 2018 batting practice cap, and I have no inclination whatsoever to buy one.

Now, if they brought back Mr. Met, I might be inclined to get one for me and my son.

Mets Promotion Schedule For Kids

In conjunction with the Mets selling their 2018 schedule, they have announced their Promotion Schedule

It should be noted that none of the announced promotions are adults only. For that matter, none of them are kids only, which is odd considering there are giveaways which are clearly targeted towards kids. 

If you are a parent looking to take kids to the game, here’s a list of promotions which kids should enjoy (Limit in parentheses):

Sat, March 31st: Build-A-Bear Teddy (15,000)

Sun, April 15th – Kids Mets Glove (15,000)

Sat, May 5th – Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnome (25,000)

Sun, May 6th – Baseball Socks (15,000)

Sat, May 19th – Mr. Met Star Wars Bobblehead (25,000)

Sun, June 10th – Mets Fathead (15,000)

Sat, June 23rd – Home Run Apple Figurine (15,000)

Sun, June 24th – Mets cap (15,000)

Sat, July 7th – Jacob deGrom Bobblehead (25,000)

Sat, July 8th – Cespedes Shinguard (15,000)

Sun, July 15th – Mets Toy Truck (15,000)

Sun, August 5th – Topps National Baseball Card Day pack 

Sun, August 26th – Mets Lunchbag (15,000)

Sat, Sept 8th – Mets winter hat (15,000)

Sun, Sept 9th – Mets Cereal Bowl (15,000)

For the Sunday promotions, keep in mind that if it is a day game, kids get to run the bases after the game. 

Additionally, every Friday is free t-shirt night for everyone. However, the size provided to all is an adult x-large which really precludes it from being a kid friendly promotion. 

Lastly, if you’re going on a Bobblehead or gnome day be prepared. You can get there hours before the start of the game and still not get the promotion. That sets a really bad tone for the rest of your day. 

Overall, if you are planning to take the family to Citi Field, you should take your kid to one of the aforementioned games. Unless the Mets do some serious work on the roster, chances are you won’t get a win. If you go on a promotional date, you can still go home with something. 

How To Get Rid Of Your Halloween Candy

If you are anything like me, you took your child our trick-or-treating, and you collected far more candy than your child could or should ever eat.  My son loved trick-or-treating so much this year, we collected the equivalent of three of those jack o’lantern pails.  He’s not going to eat one of them let alone three.  This leaves us searching for ways to get rid of all that candy.  If you arent’t eating it yourself (surprisingly, I’ve never taken anything from my son’s Halloween haul), here are some suggestions to get rid of it:

1.  Donate It

There are plenty of charitable organizations like the Ronald McDonald House or Soldiers’ Angels who will gladly accept the candy and provide it to children or soliders.  These are just two examples.  A simple Google search could discover more, or if you have a favorite charity send it to them.

2.  Sell It

Increasingly, there are places that will either give you cash, coupons, or swag in exchange for your excess candy.  You can find places that participate in these programs by vising Halloween Candy Buy Back‘s website.

3.  Save for Christmas

Look, in about a month or so, you are going to be hanging the stockings by the chimney with care.  Instead of going out and buying a Snickers or M&M’s with a red and/or green wrapper, just stick the candy with the normal wrapper in your child’s stocking.

4.  Use for Goody Bags or Piñata

Sooner or later your child is going to have a birthday, and with it a birthday party.  Instead of buying new candy or going without candy, stick a couple of pieces in the goody bags.  If you have enough leftover, you could even put them in a piñata to add another fun event to your child’s birthday party.

5.  Add It to Breakfast

One way to encourage your child to get them to start cooking is to use the candy to get them to help you make breakfast.  The easiest way to do that is to make pancakes or waffles.  The easiest candies to incorporate are M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces.  Although you could cut up the fun sized candy pieces down to smaller chunks if you wanted.  The easiest way to incorporate the candy would be to drop them onto the unbaked side of the pancake or waffle.  You could also toss the candy with some flour to help prevent the candy from dropping to the bottom of the batter.

6.  Bake with It

There are any number of things you could do with candy in baking.  You could incorporate them into cake or cupcake batter.  Another idea is once the icing is put on the cakes, your child could then stick the candy on the icing of the cake, or you could use a piece of candy as a decoration atop a cupcake.  If you’re really daring, you could make a cake or cupcake in the theme of the specific candy.  It should be noted we did this with my son’s birthday cake last year much to his delight:

For example, make a vanilla cake, put some peanuts and caramel between the layers, cover with chocolate icing, and then stick some chopped up Snickers bars around the cake.

You could also melt it down to make a bark or cover pretzels.

7.  Incentivize with It

Is there an area where your child needs to improve?  Putting toys away?  School?  Manners?  You can use the extra candy as an incentive program to help reward good behavior.  And yes, I mean incentivize.  There’s a fine line between incentivizing and bribing.  Bribing is telling them if they do something, they’ll get it.  Incentivizing is giving it to them without first promising it to them.

8.  Family Movie Night

Instead of going out to the movies, maybe have a family movie night at home.  Rent a new movie the kids haven’t seen, make some popcorn, and give them some of the candy from Halloween.  This way they get some of the movie theater experience right at home.  If you’re able to find a movie on Netflix or HBO, you’ve created a fun night without spending an extra dime.

9.  Bring It to Work

You know if you bring anything to work and leave it out in the open, the vultures around your office will soon circle and clean you out.

10.  Save For Next Halloween

Candy takes a long time to expire.  If you really have that much candy, just save it in a cool dry place and use it to hand out to trick or treaters who come to your home next year.

Citi Field Should Be Open For Halloween

There are probably some logistical issues I’m missing here, but it seems to me the Mets and 28 other teams are missing an opportunity by not having their ballparks open for children on Halloween.

As we have seen, there are different levels of opening up the ballpark.  For paid entry events like a concert or the NYC Bacon and Beer Classic, you are permitted entry within Citi Field.  For other events like the annual Coat Drive, a portion of Citi Field is open like the Team Store.  For others, we have seen either the Rotunda being open or just tables set up on the perimeter of the ballpark.  Whatever, the case, there is a space where fans could bring their children to Trick or Treat.

For the children, it would be a safer environment to do their Trick or Treating.  There’s far less of a concern about the various concerns that surround Halloween from cars driving down the road, tampered candy, and for some, bullies.  There are also children who are deprived of the joys of Trick or Treating just by a function of their not living in a safe neighborhood.

For all of these children, it would also present an opportunity to go to Citi Field, which is the home of their favorite baseball team.

How teams want to organize it would be entirely up to them.  You could have some current or former players.  You could skip the players and just have a mascot like Mr. Met.  There could be a best costume or best baseball costume event.  Really, the door is wide open.

It would also be a good fundraising opportunity.  This could be done as an early food drive for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you bring a can, you have the opportunity to go Trick or Treating at Citi Field.  It could also be an extension of baseball’s RBI Program.

As for what gets passed out, it doesn’t really matter so long as it is a fun event.  Children want candy on Halloween, but they would also be happy to receive stickers, tattoos, baseball cards, or really anything fun.  If teams do this right, there will be a number of sponsors at the ready willing to participate.  Likely, these sponors will hand out both candy and swag in the form of a trick or treat bag or other Halloween related items.

If done properly, there is no real downside to this, and it helps grow the game with young fans who will certainly look back and fondly remember their days Trick or Treating at Citi Field.  Certainly, Mets fans can use a Citi Field Halloween memory other than Terry Collins leaving in Steven Matz too long, his going to Tyler Clippard instead of Jeurys Familia to start the eighth, and Daniel Murphy booting an Eric Hosmer grounder.

Overall, unless there are some logistics with the city or with Major League Baseball, this is something the Mets and the other teams not hosting a World Series game should definitely look to do for their young fans.

If not Major League teams, at least minor league teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones.

The Fallacy Of Earlier Postseason Games

This postseason has featured some classic games that have stretched into the early hours of the next day.  For it’s part, Game Two of the World Series ended at 12:36 AM EST.

For many fans who have work the next day, this was far too late to be up.  For those with children, you likely had them in bed well before the end of this game.  In fact, many were in bed before the seventh inning stretch.  When faced with these moments, many renew calls for postseason day games or earlier start times.

West Coast Problem

The thing about Game Two of the World Series was it ending at 12:36 AM EST was that it ended at 9:36 PM PST.  That is not something that should be dismissed, especially when the game was actually played in California.

While people on the East Coast deal with games ending late, people on the West Coast have to deal with games starting too early.  Game Two of the World Series, hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a first pitch at 5:19 PST.  That is part of the reason why Dodger Stadium wasn’t at capacity yet when the game started.

That’s not only a problem for people attending the game.  It’s a problem for people who wanted to watch the game at home.  Imagine being a die hard Mets fan who had to somehow leave work early enough to beat rush hour to get home and be on your couch ready to watch the World Series at 5:00.  There aren’t many of us who can.

Yet, that is an issue people on the West Coast have to face every World Series.  It’s a problem not just for them, but for Major League Baseball.

Remember, it’s not baseball’s responsibility to ensure friendly end times for baseball games for people on the East Coast.  It’s their responsibility to ensure that as many fans in America as possible get to watch the game.  That’s their responsibility not just to fans, but also to advertisers.

In making that decision, someone is going to have to suffer.  West Coast fans have to deal with missing the beginning of the game, and East Coast people will have to deal with being sleepy the next day.  Like all compromise, everyone is left a little unsatisfied.

Getting Young Children Interested

There’s not doubt an early start time would be friendlier for children.  Depending on their age, children are in bed before the game even begins.  For others, they will have to be in bed before the game ends.  In some sense, that’s not much different that the problem many adults face when watching the World Series.

Here’s the thing about that.  It’s really not much different that the regular season.  Are you really going to tell me that hour makes a real difference between your child watching the game or not?

Personally, I know my son falls asleep while watching regular season games, and he is already in before the World Series start times.  I know I smiled the other day when he told me he doesn’t like it when baseball is over, and he wants it come back.  I also know his fandom is largely predicated upon mine, and if I continue to be the ardent fan I am, he is likely to follow in my footsteps.

I also know his fandom will likely be shaped as he gets older.  With the anniversary of the Mets 1986 World Series having just passed, I talked to my dad about it.  I was allowed to stay up for Game 6 to its end in large part because it was my parents were hosting an engagement part for her at our house.  My Dad also revealed to me I watched many two minutes of Game 7 because I was already in bed because I had school the next day (Thanks Mom).

It wouldn’t be until Kirk Gibson‘s homer in the 1988 World Series that I would be allowed to stay up late for a game.  It is something I would do from 1988 until the present.  My missing the 1986 World Series had nothing to do with my fandom or my love of baseball.

World Series Day Games

The counter-point to this is maybe we can counter-balance the first two issues by having World Series day games.  In reality, this ultimately will have the opposite effect.

The logic behind it is fairly sound.  By having games at a time when everyone can watch, more people will be able to watch the games from beginning to end.  That goes double for children from coast to coast.

This argument ignores what it is like to be a parent of a child on the weekend.  In fall, especially the Month of October, parents and children’s days are already full of activities.  During the fall, there are soccer and football games.  There are some fall baseball leagues.  This doesn’t even include indoor sports that can be and are played year round like basketball, swimming, gymnastics, and dance.

There are also piano (or other musical instrument) lessons.  Recitals.  Birthday parties.  Pumpkin Picking.  Trunk or Treats.  The list goes on and on, and that is before you account for laundry, grocery shopping, and all the other househould chores that need to be accomplished by Monday.

During the Month of October, parents are running from place to place.  Even when there is nothing to do, you are outside playing with your children or taking them over to a friend’s house to play.  It just doesn’t end.

The reward?  Well, after a day of running around like that after a hard work week, you should be able to pop open a beer and watch the World Series.  Of course, you can’t if it has already been played at 4:00.  Instead, you are trying to catch pieces of the game here and there while you are doing things with your children.

Football Problem

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if baseball or football is more popular.  What matters is there’s going to be a conflict with day games.

If you’re a college football fan and a baseball fan, you’re going to have to choose between the two or toggle back and forth.  If your team is still in the playoff picture, and your baseball team is out of it, you’re likely going to watch your college football team.

Same goes on Sundays when it is a matter of the Jets or Giants and the World Series.  While there might be some toggling back and forth, you’re likely going to focus on your team rather than the World Series.

Why would baseball invite fans splitting their interest between two sports?  It’s insanity.  Oh, and by the way, there is no way Fox would every allow it.

Early Games Don’t Make Sense

Like everyone else, I would like earlier start times to games, and I would love games to end at a reasonably early enough time for me to get to bed at a decent hour.  It’s never going to happen, and it’s not happening because people don’t just live on the Eastern seaboard, and people have conflicts with earlier start times.

Like anyone else, I’d like to see a World Series day game in my lifetime, but it’s just not going to happen.  And even if it did happen, I probably won’t get to sit down and watch it for another 20 years.

So, as this World Series comes to a close, I’ll be more concerned about the quality of the games played than their start and end times because at the end of the day, I’ll always remember how great Game 2 of the 2017 World Series was, and I probably won’t be discussing how I was so tired at work the next day.

Amed Rosario’s Best Tweet

Amed Rosario has an interesting Twitter account where he constantly reminds us all #DontBeSurprisedBeReady. Well, yesterday, he had hit best tweet ever, which was technically a RT: