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my first advent calendar!

Oh Joy! Advent Calendar

Growing up in a Thai family, Christmas wasn't a thing. But as a Thai-American kid who wanted so bad to be "American", I made my parents get us a Christmas tree and celebrate because I just thought that's what people did! My parents happily obliged, but we never grew up with things like Santa and stockings on a chimney or advent calendars. Regardless, I didn't miss a thing because my parents still made it special in their own way.

Fast-forward to today, I have been slowly defining what the holidays mean to me and my now young family. I don't have Christmas traditions passed down from generations, so this year I tried to work on beginning what our traditions could be going forward. Especially since we can't travel to Philadelphia for the holidays to see our parents like we always do, I wanted to start something new that felt special for my kids with all this extra time at home. So, this was our first year having an advent calendar!

My friends at Gathre so kindly send me this beautiful advent calendar which began my journey into thinking about what I would create for my kids to discover every day. I fielded questions on Instagram stories to see what you all do (or did when you grew up) and got a TON of suggestions. In the end, I decided to focus them on a mix of: family experiences/activities, acts of kindness/service, and small gifts that could be used again. I didn't want to add candy because my kids get plenty of treats, and I didn't want crappy throw-away junk toys (unless I already had them laying around :P).

Here are the things we did this year in case it inspires your future advent calendars...or even simple activities to do with kids at anytime. I've noted ones that were big hits and ones that I would skip next time!

1 - Wave this around and tell us what you're grateful for!
This had ribbon wands for them to dance around with which made a fun start to the month of activities.

2 - Use this to create something you want for Christmas!
This one included a jar of play-doh (which I already had) and was a fun way to get excited for Christmas with an item they have used tons of times but they loved the activity attached to it!

3 - Use these for a solo activity with Mommy and Daddy!
This one was a fail. Not that they didn't enjoy the idea but it wasn't as immediate as the others and anti-climatic. Plus, they usually get solo time with us anyway, so I realized I didn't need them to have a coupon for it!

4 - What would you do if you were home alone?
We watched Home Alone which I haven't seen in years. It was probably too intense for my 6-year-old but my 9-year-old loved it.

5 - Let's drive somewhere to see some sparkly lights!
This one was a drive to an outdoor, drive-through light show. This was fun because it got them out of the house and was a surprise adventure!

6 - Let's see if you can build a house without eating it!
These were a clue for gingerbread house kits which we do every year and they love.

7 - Create a picture with these showing ways to be kind!
This came with a couple sheets of stickers and they had to create a scene using the stickers where the characters or objects needed to show kindness. Then they presented the drawings to us which were VERY sweet.

8 - Use these to write a letter to your sister!
I included a couple new, fun pens here. This was super sweet and made them think about each other. We needed this especially this year with them spending the most time together ever (and bickering the most ever, too!).

9 - Pick a friend you miss to send these to with a letter!
This one included fun patches and they could choose which one(s) to send to a friend. This was about not keeping the gift for themselves but instead choosing someone else to send them to.

10 - Find a spot on the tree for these!
This one included an ornament for each of them to hang on the tree.

11 - Let's make some fancy nails!
We had some fun doing mini manis with nail stickers.

12 - Who wants some hot cocoa like an Elf?
Hot cocoa and movie night! Elf, of course!

13 - Let's wrap some presents for kids who need our help!
Every year, we get matched with a family through Baby2Baby and shop for them for Christmas. It's a mix of clothes, toys, and basic necessities. The kids get to know a little about them and their interests, and then they help wrap their gifts. In past years, we have met the families we were matched with but this year we couldn't obviously, so the gifts were dropped off at Baby2Baby who would then distribute to the kids. I always love this as a way to show our kids how much joy it can give to think of others first.

14 - Tie up your hair and do the craziest dance!
This one included scrunchies which they can use again and again.

15 - Use these to play your favorite Christmas song!
I put in two kazoos which were the closest to a "junk toy" but I already had them so I was okay with it. The kazoos didn't work SO great, but the kids still had fun with it!

16 - Create a mini restaurant!
I had some mini food toys and used them for this activity. It was fun for pretend play, but wasn't anything over-the-top special.

17 - Tell us why you love your name!
This includes a C and R iron-on patch I collected a while ago. It gave them a chance to think about their name and chose a fun place to add the patch to iron-on.

18 - Let's celebrate the beginning of Winter Break!
This includes a small bag of confetti to toss in the air.

19 - Life is sweet! Decorate some cookies!
A clue for a cookie decorating kit!

20 - Let's make some balloon magic!
Our friend gifted the kids (for Christmas) a zoom show with a balloon artist, so I saved it for one of the days later in the month.

21 - Splish splash! Let's take a bath!
Bath bomb! They now take showers so baths are a rare treat.

22 - Pick a treat you want to eat!
This included a couple pins with cotton candy on them to symbolize treats to let them pick something special for the day.

23 - Take photos of things that make you smile!
I included a pack of Instax film so they could take some photos on their instant camera. These will be fun to save as memories of this year as well.

24 - Wear these for movie night!
This last one has reindeer headbands to wear for our last night before Christmas while watching a movie, Jingle Jangle.

I was super proud of myself for coming up with a mix of things that felt both fun and heartfelt. Overall, I saved the bigger activities (cookie decorating, gingerbread houses) for the weekend and left the weekday ones more simple and something we could all do together after dinner. The kids looked forward to it every night and never forgot about it. There were some things I thought my kids would think weren't that exciting because the object wasn't anything new (like Play-doh) but I found that because it was reframed through a very specific activity, it felt fun and new to them! In some cases, we (the parents) also participated—like why we like our name or something we're grateful for.

I hope that was helpful (and interesting!) for you. Next year, I'll start a little earlier and share my new ideas with you before it's time to get them started for December 2021!

oh joy gift guide: kid's gifts that will last!

oh joy gift guide: kid's gifts that will last!

Our last holiday gift guide is here! When it comes to gifts for kids, we know kids LOVE the junky, plastic toys that they may only be entertained with once or twice. But, if you're looking for gifts that will last beyond that and serve a more functional, educational, or longer-term purpose, here are some of my faves...

1) The Typeset Co. Letters and Boards (from $25); 2) Hazelvillage Dolls (from $44); 3) Oh Honey Child felt garlands (from $15); 4) Clixo building sets (from $30); 5) Oh Joy x Clover pajamas ($34); 6) Rainbow Mug by THISISTISA ($18); 7) Ahimsa plate set ($64); 8) Tiny Deer Studio Knit Blanket ($120); 9) Chelsea and West play tent; 10) SkyHugsShop tee; 11) Still Novel prints (from $60); and 12) The House That Lars Built Class art classes for kids ($99).

oh so kind is here!

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

Just in time for the holidays, I'm so excited to announce our third Oh Joy! Story Book is now available. Oh So Kind! is a big-hearted, lift-the-flap book about being a kind friend, neighbor, and family member! Our main character is a lovable Llama in a wheelchair making way throughout the day who brings warmth and demonstrates kindness. 

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

Written by me and illustrated by Angie Stalker, our newest title will keep little ones entertained with messages that resonate with children of all ages. It joins our series of three Oh Joy! Story Books that launched this year.

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

You can buy all three now or add the third one to your already-started collection. I hope you love these stories and messages as much as I do! You can find Oh So Kind! now at: Amazon, Target or Indiebound. (Did you know you can find Be Curious! and You're Okay! in select Target stores, too?)

(Photos by Lily Glass)

tips for an easy photo book...

Oh Joy! for Mixbook Photo Books

The biggest barrier to making photo books is ALL. THE. WORK. Am I right? It often seems impossible if you're already seven years behind or still need to make last year's book! But let's take that pressure off of us, shall we? Times are hard enough and we don't need extra stress—we need extra joy and happiness! And for me, something that makes me happy is looking at old photos! However they're organized (or not) and whatever order they're in, it's always fun. So take the pressure off yourself to create a masterpiece and get something on the page that you and your loved ones will cherish. Here are my favorite tips for making photo books easy just in time for holiday gift-giving...

Oh Joy! for Mixbook Photo Books

1) Copy and paste the same designed page/layout for each month, changing the image and the month only. You then have twelve pages already done and only needed one picture per page. It's especially easy if you can find one big thing you celebrated that month: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, big events, or family getaways. Even if the book is only twelve pages, you'll still have a great book with memories spanning the entire year. And once you break the big hurdle of getting started, you might even want to add an additional page (or two!) per month.

Oh Joy! for Mixbook Photo Books

2) Leave a page or two blank to draw or write on! Whether you let your kids doodle or you write a personal note, it's such a fun way to keep track of time and personalize the book even more.

Oh Joy! for Mixbook Photo Books

3) Try making a book by subject matter instead of by year. If you have a favorite park you've taken your kids to for much of their lives, do a Park Book with images spanning as many years as you have. Or dedicate a book to your favorite people—grandparents, best friends, etc. Most photo clouds can already sort photos by person, so it's easy to upload and slot in to our great templates. And there's no pressure to to have it in any kind of order either. You'll get pleasure in revisiting the memories on each page even if they bounce back and forth between years.

Oh-Joy-x-Mixbook-Adding-Collaborators

4) Ask for help! If you're putting together a big book for Grandma with all the grandkids or trying to finish that vacation book from three years ago, call for help! The great thing about Mixbook is you can share a project and have multiple contributors. Everyone can add in their own images, their own pages, and you get a perfectly wonderful mix of everyone's experience and memories. (And then everyone that wants one can order it on their own too, so you don't have to worry about that either!)

Or, if you want your own family's input, spend a family night projecting your phone images on your TV for everyone to look at. Mark the favorites from everybody and then upload the favorites and pop them into the pre-made templates! You'll be surprised how quickly everyone has something they want to share AND it's a fun look back on past memories.

5) Finally, reject the idea of perfect! Aim for fun and finished instead! Because I promise you, it's better to have the book than wait until you get enough hours and energy to make everything "just perfect". And I also promise that once you have the book, and others do too, you'll think it's pretty perfect.

Shop the entire Oh Joy! x Mixbook collection here.  And receive 45% off your holiday order: OHJOY45  (expires 12/30/20).

(Lifestyle photos by Lily Glass, styling by Joy Cho)

handmade charlotte's glitter beetles!

The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

If you're looking for a fun project to do next week during the kids' Thanksgiving break, deck the walls with a gallery of glittery bugs. This project Is from the new The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett which is an incredible guide of crafts to keep your kids entertained and crafting and offers a nice break from all those Zoom classes! Start with a printed picture for a quick project or design your own new species. Make an entire collection of shadow boxes and you’ll have a great start to your own personal science museum. Here's how...

The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

You'll need:

  • Box lid
  • Large printouts of beetles & bugs
  • Cardstock
  • Acrylic paint (various colors)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Glitter (various colors)


The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

Here's how...

  1. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the top of the beetle. Work in sections, covering each area with glitter as you go. Let dry.
  2. Paint the inside and outside of the box lid. Let dry.
  3. Cut out the glittered beetle, taking extra care around any delicate parts like thin legs. If any part of the beetle feels fragile, use Mod Podge to attach a piece of card stock to strengthen it
  4. Fold a strip of card stock into a small box and attach it to the back of the beetle. This will give the beetle a three-dimensional quality when placed inside the box lid.
  5. Attach the small folded box on the back of the beetle to the painted box lid using Mod Podge and allow to dry.
  6. Repeat the process to create an entire museum of glittery bugs!

Reprinted from The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett in arrangement with TarcherPerigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2020, Rachel Faucett.

oh joy gift guide: kids books

2020 Oh Joy! Gift Guide - Kids' Books

The first of our gift guides for the holiday is here! This has been a whirlwind year full of emotions, heartbreak, and personal discoveries. Gifts this year feel like they need to have more meaning than ever. Whether that means making gifts, spending a little less than usual, or giving gifts that have extra special meaning, we're focused on sharing our favorites with those sentiments in mind. Today, I'm starting with kids' books which I share regularly throughout the year, but these are some great ones to punctuate the end of this unique year for our little ones, too!

1) Oh So Kind! by Joy Cho and illustrated by Angie Stalker is the third book in our series of Oh Joy! Story Books for kids that came out this year! This book launches on December 1 just in time for the holidays. Our main character is a lovable Llama in a wheelchair who brings warmth by demonstrating and celebrating kindness with this big-hearted book about being a good friend, neighbor, and family member! Written for ages 0-3 but it also makes a perfect story for first-time readers to enjoy! 

2) Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed The World by Elena Favilli is an informative, empowering, and educational read for bigger kids. My kids love reading about a person or two per night as an option for bedtime reading.

3) How To Spot An Artist by Danielle Krysa is a fun way to show that anyone can be an artist, and you don't have to be perfect at it. I love this book for kids ages 3-7 especially for those who are still growing their creative skills.

4) Ditto Kids Magazine: Issue 1 Belonging would make a great start to an on-going subscription for an educational, diverse, and interactive magazine that kids ages 3-11 would love.

5) All Because You Matter by Tami Charles empowers, informs, and reminds kids about the importance of each and every child and reminds them they are all here for a great reason.

6) Everyday Smiles by Guy Kopsombut is a super cute comic-style book with sweet characters and sentiments. It's a book that's great for kids and also grown-ups who need a little pick-me-up!

7) Habbi Habbi's First Words is a part of their amazing series of language books (currently in Spanish and Mandarin). These are interactive and useful for kids of all ages who are learning these languages.

8) A Kids Book About Optimism by Meir Kay makes for a much needed 2020 read! Just when we feel stuck at home, missing our friends, or wondering when life will return to "normal", here's a great reminder to look towards the sunshine and what's to come.

9) Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett is like a giant guidebook of crafts! This will make for a great resource whenever you're looking for crafty projects for kids to do on a rainy day, over winter break, or any day!

oh joy for clover is here!

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

I'm so excited to announce our newest collection out today...Oh Joy! for Clover kid's pajamas! These are the softest and most wonderful quality PJs, and we were so thrilled to bring you a collection with our whimsical Oh Joy! patterns and designs inspired by our Oh Joy! Kids Story Books. Put on your new PJs while reading your favorite books for an extra fun and cozy bedtime. Sizes start from 0-3 months and go up to 4/5T!  Here's a closer look at all the fun designs...

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

1. Slumber Party Pals- Find your favorite characters on your PJs from our books! Read along and spot your favorite friends!

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

2. Goodnight Galaxy - As our Curious Cat flies into the sky on his balloon, your little ones can join in on the fun!

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

3. Sweet Sleepy Stripes - Stripes are always in style and are a fun way to remember...you are you, and you're OKAY!

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

4. Dreamy Dots - Our Curious Cat and his curious spots have been reimagined in cool blue tones to make your little one as curious as a cat, and also just as sleepy! 

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

5. Daydream Daisies - There are "hidden" daisies all through You're Okay! Can you find them all? 

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

Oh Joy! for Clover Pajamas

All of our designs are available now in a Footie or Cloverall style and a Two-Piece Shirt and Pant style. Plus, you can get them bundled with the book if you don't have your copies yet! The quantities are limited and this collection will not restock, so get them while you can! 

 

Special thanks to: 

Lifestyle photos: Photos by Lily Glass, styling by Joy Cho

Kids' Photos: Photos by Charlie Wrzesniewski, styling by Lark & Co.

Book illustrations and pajama prints by Angie Stalker, Designer for Oh Joy!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

While I am all about making messes to get creative, sometimes I just don't want to have to deal with all the clean-up that's involved (or the clean-up I will have to remind my kids they need to do after ;P). Here's an easy and fun art exercise you can do with kids of all ages from toddler to big kid!

All you need is:
-paper (I cut sheets into quarters so they would be the same size and also to keep them smallish)
-colorful dot stickers (thanks Jordan for telling me about these stickers!)
-black permanent marker

Here are a few exercises you can prompt! They involve a mix of creation and story-telling, and it's fun for you to do the exercises alongside with them, too...

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 1: Place 6 dots on your page in six different colors (they should not touch). Then use a Sharpie to draw different facial expressions on each dot. Next, add drawings around each one. They could become an object, a living thing, a person, etc. Finally, tell a story about the six things...it could be one continuous story where all six could all be involved in the same story or just describe each one!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 2: Using any colors you want to make a continuous path from one end of your paper to another. Then, add drawings to make your stickers create a scene. Add a title to your scene. Then, describe it to everyone!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 3: Make a pattern with the dots! You can use any number of colors you want. Then, add either drawings or a title. Now, describe your picture!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 4: Make whatever you want! BUT, create it in mind with the idea that you are making this for someone else and you would want to send it to them in the mail—like your best friend, your grandparents, etc! Finally, describe your scene to everyone.

My kids had a great time doing this art exercise, and it was fun for them to get different prompts throughout. They got excited about sharing their creation, too. Afterwards, my oldest said now she wanted to make something messy because this one was so neat and clean! Ha!

my favorite baby and kid pajamas!

Oh Joy! / Kid's Pajamas
How many of you are LIVING in your PJ's right now?! Whether you're trying to stay cozy or keep your little ones cozy, great pajamas are one of the secrets to pure joy! Here are a few of our favorite brands to find quality and comfy PJ's for your little one...
 
1. Clover has a range of super soft PJ's from baby to kid that are playful, comfy, and so fun! ($34, newborn to 5T)
 
2. Plain Jane has been a long-time favorite since my kids were little. Now, they have adult options for Mom which are all SOOO cozy and you could wear to lounge in all day long. ($40, 2T-10Y)
 
3. Dodo Banana offers long-sleeve sets in super cute patterns. I'm a sucker for any inanimate object that has a face added to it! ($55, 6m-5Y)
 
4. Little Sleepies (from $30, newborn to 9Y) is another super soft brand that ranges in size from baby to kid with fun prints and even some matching ones for Mom!
 
5. Magnetic Me is a lifesaver for those sleepless newborn nights with 3am diaper changes. Their magnetic snaps make it easy to change your babe by the glow of the moonlight! ($36, newborn to 24m)
 
6. La Paloma - If you're in search of modern nightgowns that could also be worn for play, we love these from the new brand La Paloma ($58, size 2-9).

when you're feeling blue...

Good Things List

These times have been an emotional roller coaster for all of us for sure. Some days I feel really great and have a handle on our current state of life, and sometimes I'm totally bummed out. The thing I try and do on those bummer days is to think about all the great things that have happened since quarantine and write them down in a place I can see, look at, and add to. It's fun to get the kids involved, too, when they inevitably miss school and friends and "regular" life. All of us can always be refreshed by looking at and adding to your Good Things list!