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Niagara Falls: Family Bucket List Vacation Spot

If you breathe oxygen, it's on your bucket list. Heck, there are probably even some alien life forms out there that want to take their kids to Niagara Falls. It would be hard to overstate the breathtaking power and natural beauty of this international landmark, the first of our national parks, but I'll do my best.

I was lucky enough to stumble, with a little good advice, onto an itinerary as easy as a vacation should be, allowing our family to see Niagara Falls from above and below, from in front and behind, by day and by night, from the US and from Canada without waiting more than a few minutes in any line or spending a lot of money. To be fair, we pulled off this feat in June; repeating our movements in July or August might be more crowded, but I still think it will be the path of least resistance. Or you could go to the other extreme and see the Falls in winter, which by all accounts is a whole other kind of magical.

If you have time to explore a few fun things beyond the waterfalls—of which there are overwhelmingly many—there are some great free options. You'll run out of time before you run out of things to do in Niagara.

Water Safety Musts for Kids at the Beach, Pool and Lake

It’s a basic law of summer that a dip in a cool pool, or a splash in the ocean, makes everything right in the world. With many families gearing up for ocean and pool trips, or lake vacations, we talked to swim instructors and water safety experts around the country to gather the most important tips for keeping water-loving kids safe this summer. 

Surviving Mother's Day as a Single Mom—8 Ways To Have the Day We Deserve

Mother's Day seems like such a great idea, but for single moms it rarely delivers. Who's going to bring us breakfast in bed—a toddler?

There are many paths to single motherhood, and I think among my friends we cover them all. Whether we were surprised by motherhood, by divorce, or just by everything that came after the sperm bank, one thing we all share is that Mother’s Day is not all it's cracked up to be. That’s not because we don’t love being mothers—being Mom is the part we love best. And the concept of celebrating motherhood is a fine thing. But being responsible for teaching someone else—someone small and self-centered—to make a fuss over us? That feels like more trouble than it's worth. Or, to put it as concisely as one of my friends does, “Kids ruin Mother’s Day.”

Of course we're joking. Kind of. How could kids ruin a day all about our joy in having them? Maybe it's because Hallmark builds this thing up as big as Valentine's Day and makes us think that someone is supposed to shower us with champagne breakfasts and roses. In a two-parent home, the responsibility for living up to that fantasy at least falls on an adult. Of course, friends readily tell me how often the adult can fall short (I don't think the Mother's Day deep fat fryer episode ended my one friend's marriage, but it clearly didn't help). Enough dads do seem to get it right, though, to leave a single mom feeling like she's alone in a world of mimosa drinkers come Sunday morn.

First Birthday Party Ideas and Tips

First birthday parties are tricky. Since they're as much for the adults as for the baby, parents want to throw a memorable celebration that the birthday child can enjoy while marking the occasion with friends and family.

I've been thinking about first birthday party ideas, so I decided to ask the experts: the moms who work on Mommy Poppins. Sure enough, I got lots of great tips, advice and concepts.

Kids' Mystery Party: Games and Ideas for a Kid-Friendly Murder Mystery Party

When my son declared he wanted a mystery party for his 10th birthday, I turned to the Internet to research party games and ideas. Happy surprise, the No. 1 Google result for “kids mystery party” is my friend Liz’s hilarious post comparing the type-A Pinterest-perfect mystery ideas she found online vs her own totally type-B mystery party. 

While anyone who has been to my always-messy apartment will attest I am definitely not a type-A mom, when it comes to birthday parties, I love to go all out with really creative activities that always leave the kids saying, “That was the best party ever.” Let’s face it, kids don’t care if your paper goods are fancy; they just want to have fun. 

So, in response to Mom-101's post, I took up the challenge to create an A-is-for-Awesome kids' mystery party that anyone could throw without a MFP (Masters in Fine Pinterest).

How to Make a Free Photo Booth for a Kids' Party

For the past few years, I have dreamed about having a party with a photo booth. Not only does it seem like a fun party activity, but the guests end up with great favors: The funny photos that show everyone together, having a blast. You can rent a photo booth from a local company, but the prices start in the high hundreds and go up from there, so I looked into different options for DIY photo booths.

After much research, my photo booth solution ended up being incredibly simple and free, and it was a huge hit at my last gathering. We got terrific pictures of all the guests, but the biggest surprise was how great having a photo booth was for the kids. We had children ages 3 to 12 completely occupied, snapping away, leaving the grown-ups to eat, chat and mingle.

While this easy DIY photo booth works for grown-up parties, I think it's a particularly great addition to a kids' party. The only downside is, if you want the kids to do anything else, it might be hard to pull them away. Find even more fun and easy tech ideas like this in our Geek Guide.

5 ‘Frozen’ Party and Craft Ideas to Melt Away Summer’s Heat

Disney’s Frozen sequel isn’t due out for several years, but that hasn’t slowed down the Elsa and Anna fever in my household where “Let It Go” is the nightly bathtub refrain. If your kid is pining for the snow queen’s return, then it might be time to whip up a Frozen-themed party or activity.

Sticky summer weather only makes us crave a chill-inducing Frozen scenery more. Besides, Olaf would approve of the summer setting, wouldn’t he? So pop on the soundtrack, think ice cold thoughts and check out these five Frozen-themed kid party ideas and activities, some simple, some messy, but all 100 percent fun.

The Peanuts Movie: Parent Review of Charlie Brown's First Feature Film

The charm and appeal of the new Peanuts movie spans generations, from the moms and dads who grew up reading the comics to the youngest who've only seen the TV specials. Sweet and entertaining, The Peanuts Movie (G) can be a great film for the whole family to see together—but does it retain the nostalgic glow of Snoopy and Woodstock without resorting to Lucy's jarring, outdated cries of, "Charlie Brown, you stupid idiot"? And is it worth seeing in 3D, or will the old 2D work just as well?

He Named Me Malala, Parent Movie Review: Is It OK for Kids?

He Named Me Malala opens this week, and some of our older kids are going to want to see it. Malala Yousafzai is kind of like this generation’s Anne Frank: an articulate, wise-beyond-her-years teenage girl who remains optimistic about our world’s prospects for peace despite her own encounter with unspeakable evil. Malala is a child, but her story is not necessarily for children. I wanted to check it out before taking my own kids.

Taking an International Flight With Your Toddler: 20 Things to Bring

A family vacation may sound idyllic, but once travel plans involve crossing oceans and international borders, bringing a two-year-old with you may make the hassles of travel feel even more daunting. What do you need to bring in your carry-on to make a ten or twenty hour flight with a toddler bearable?

We recently took our two-year-old to Kenya to spend some time with his grandparents who live on the Mombasa coast. In the course of three flights and twenty-seven hours in transit, we learned a lot about how to prepare for the next trip. While in-flight entertainment or kids shows streaming through the Wi-Fi will help pass the time, toddlers have a short attention span. We planned to switch activities every 20 minutes. Here are 20 things to keep a kid entertained, plus supplies to get through the literal and figurative turbulence.

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