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Looking for a unique and memorable teacher’s gift to make for your school art or preschool teacher? How about a fun wreath to decorate the door or classroom? My daughter and I had fun putting this wreath together for an art themed party we had but the wreath turned out so nice we gave it to one of her teachers as a gift.
A grapevine wreath
Twist tie or floral wire
Art supplies like crayons, colored pencils, paintbrushes, colorful scissors, and maybe a tiny wooden art easel
Most of the decorative art supplies were gathered from our own stash so I really only needed to buy the wreath and ribbon.
1. Tie and knot the ribbon around the wreath to start off. Then keep wrapping the ribbon all the way around the wreath to make a diagonal pattern. Cut the ribbon and tie the loose end to the original knot where you started.
2. Create a big bow out of the same ribbon with several ends hanging down. Here’s a great video on how to tie a big, beautiful ribbon bow. Attach it to the wreath with the floral wire. (Or you could use the glue gun to glue it. However you might see the glue if your ribbon is sheer.)
3. Now start decorating with the art supplies. I was able to attach most of the art supplies by inserting them directly into the twisted grapevines or tucking them under the ribbon. For heavier or flatter items we used the glue gun.
Viola! A pretty wreath to give as a homemade end-of-year appreciation gift for your favorite teacher.
In light of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation to families in the Northeast and Thanksgiving coming up, a lot of talk at our dinner table has centered around helping others and being grateful or thankful for what we have. My husband and I frequently talk to the kids about giving back but we always feel like we need to do more and want to find ways to get the kids more involved in activities that help others.
Writing a check to support a charity is definitely one way to help. We always tell the children when we donate money and why we liked that organization. Now that our kids are a little older, we choose a charity to support by voting as a family. Every year we also buy a Christmas gift for a needy child from the YMCA or our Township’s Giving Trees. The kids help us shop to buy the donated items so they see what other families are lacking. We also donate money to the World Wildlife Fund every Christmas to support an endangered animal. I let each child pick an the animal they want to support. Every year before Christmas, we donate our used toys and clothes to charity. By making giving a family tradition, doing them consistently, the kids anticipate the activity and actually ask about what they can do to help.
Our kids also love one of our Church fundraisers for a local Women’s Shelter. They hand out plastic baby bottles and ask people to fill them with all loose change around the house. Our kids love searching the house for coins to put in the bottle.
But as a family, my husband and I would like to do more hands-on work where we can show the kids how our efforts and donating time makes a positive impact. Some of the activities that we are involved in offer some great opportunities to give back to the community. With our son’s Cub Scouts troop we have packed care packages for our troops with Operation Yellow Ribbon and we’ve sorted food at our local Food Pantry. When our kids were taking piano lessons, every year their teacher had the kids perform a Halloween concert at a local nursing home. The residents love to see the kids in their costumes playing music. We helped clean up the local forest preserve with my daughter’s Adventure Guides group.
For ideas on how to give more, I love MomItForward.com, a site that is all about changing the world one Mom at a time. The site has a wealth of great suggestions on how to raise giving children. What we love about the Mom It Forward suggestions is that they remind us that we should all be practicing more random acts of kindness AT HOME. It’s important to help strangers, but it is also important and really easy to help those we love.
For ideas on how you can volunteer with your children, ask at your Church. Call your local Senior Center and see if you can come and play games with the seniors. Call the animal adoption center and see if they need help cleaning or exercising the animals. Try a local Woman’s Shelter and see if they need help sorting clothing donations. Organize a neighborhood can drive. These are all age-appropriate activities for kids.
Some other resources include volunteermatch.org, where you can type in your zip code and interests and find a list of opportunities to volunteer in your community. If you are looking for information on how the family can be more Green, check out the Dr. Seuss Lorax Project, which teaches kids to save the environment and endangered animals. Finally, GenerationOn.com has some great information on how kids can help make a difference. There are some great ideas on how to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
What do you and your family do to give back? If you know of any great opportunities for families to volunteer together, please list them here. Any advice on volunteer projects for kids by age?
School has started and everyone in the family is back onto a more consistent schedule, which gives me a sigh of relief. However, even though we are back to that school-year routine, new challenges are cropping up. A flood of school papers and kids’ artwork is coming home weekly and piling up. It’s hard to keep track of all of the after school activities and gear. I’m already bored with making lunches for my daughter and need some new ideas. Finally, it’s like pulling teeth to get the kids to talk about their day at the dinner table. It’s impacting my ability to have FUN!!!!
I figured that I wasn’t the only one facing these challenges so I decided to round up some advice to give us busy families some relief. After all, managing the family schedule and keeping the house organized leaves more time for Family Fun and “Chocolate Cake Moments.”What challenges are you facing now that school has started up again? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
Now that school and after school activities have started, paperwork of all kinds is about to coming flooding into your house. Isn’t it amazing the amount of papers that your kids bring home? Even if your school has gone “paperless” like ours, between my two kids, we still bring home about 10 papers a day that need to be signed, saved, recycled, or kept for an upcoming event. Artwork, homework sheets, phone lists, permission slips, and birthday party invites are already threatening to take over my kitchen. To avoid the piles of clutter in your kitchen, check out these tips on how to organize your kids’ school paperwork so that nothing gets lost and you keep the clutter under control.
1. Designate a place to put all school papers. Do you have a desk or place to set up a few files? If not, claim a place in the kitchen, office or laundry room that is the perfect spot for school papers. Ask the kids to help out and empty the folders in their backpack every night so nothing gets forgotten or misplaced.
2. Create a folder filing system. You’ll need folders for temporary papers, permanent information, and kid’s artwork. In the temporary folders, put the paperwork that you need to hang onto for a few days. This can be field trip forms, notices for school parties, birthday party invitations, or weekly homework packets. At the end of the week, empty the folder into the recycle bin. In the permanent folder, include school phone numbers, schedules, contact numbers for afterschool activities, etc. Finally, throw your kids artwork in a special folder. At the end of the month, go through it and keep the masterpieces you want. Don’t forget to date them first! (Download my FREE eGuide on How to Organize and Showcase Your Kids Artwork for more ideas.) download my free e-Guides Organize the School Paperwork Chaos.
3. Create folders or a holding area for your kids other activities such as Religious Education Classes, Tutor schedules, Boy Scouts, Soccer, Spanish class, piano, etc. We have a few magazine racks sitting on the laundry room counter for this purpose because they can hold papers, phone lists, folders, and any text books the kids need to grab for their weekly classes. I put it in the laundry room so it’s easy to grab as we walk out the door for class.
4. A box for Box Tops. Collecting Box Tops for school? Have an envelope or small box in a kitchen drawer designated to hold the box tops you collect to send in for school fundraising. When it is collection time, they will be easy to find so you can divide them up equally between the kids to send in.
5. Family Schedules at a Glance. Get a designated Family Calendar. It is essential to have a place where everyone in the family can refer to for upcoming activities, appointments, and social dates. If someone asks your daughter to babysit, she can easily check and see if she is available. If Dad comes home from work and no one is home, he can check the calendar and see that everyone is at soccer practice. There are several Mom or Family Planning Calendar brands on the market, so see which one works best for you, create your own or use an online service like Cozi.com that Mom, Dad, and maybe kids can access with their cell phones.
What other tips do you have for getting the kids’ paperwork organized so you feel more in control?
For even more tips on how to get control of the paperwork chaos in your house, download my free e-guide on download my free e-Guide for Busy Moms to Control the Paperwork Chaos.
Now that school, scouting and sports activities are underway the need for volunteers for these organizations is in full swing. We all want to help out and get involved in our kids school or extracurricular activities, right? It’s a great way to meet your kids’ friends so you can put faces to their stories. It’s also a nice way to meet other parents in your area. Even when your kids are teens and it may not be cool to be seen with Mom, some readers have assured me that their teens really do appreciate seeing their parents get involved in their world.
However, don’t let volunteering stress you out or become a burden. I want to stay involved in my kids’ schools and they aren’t overbooked with activities, but some days the requests for help seem overwhelming. Or, some Moms tell me that they feel such guilt to contribute that they volunteer, but it adds stress to their lives and they end up resenting it. If that is how you feel, stop!
Sure, schools and organizations need all of the volunteer help they can get. But, everyone is at a different point in their life. If you have the time to volunteer and enjoy it, do so.
You may want to organize the Book Fair this year because you have some great ideas on how to make it better. Great! But, if work is just crazy for you, then cut yourself some slack and only do what you can. The last thing you want to do is commit to a project and not deliver or do it poorly because you resent the time.
Have no fear, there are plenty of different ways to give back and each year you can volunteer at a different level. Here are some tips to help you decide how you want to volunteer.
1. Every year is different.
Some years, my schedule was flexible so I could chaperone field trips, help set up the book fair, and bake for the Holiday Bake Sale. Some years work was all consuming and I had no time, so I sent in supplies or treats and only volunteered for activities in my child’s class, not for the whole school. If you have a tough year ahead, don’t be afraid to say “no”. There will always be opportunities to help the following year.
2. Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path.
Don’t think that you are limited to the tasks you see on a sign-up sheet. If you work full-time or just have a crazy busy schedule, ask if there are tasks or projects you can do at home to help out, when you have downtime. Cutting projects, sorting, computer research, and a host of easy-but-still time-consuming activities could really help the teacher or scouting leader. There is always work needed to be done, just ask your child’s teacher, coach, or scout leader what you can do to help. You can also do these tasks WITH your child to show them the value of being involved and helping others.
3. Get smart and go to school!
If you signed up to be Room Mom this year, don’t panic. There are some great resources out there to help you with ideas so you don’t have to recreate the wheel. I love RoomMomSpot.com as a site with plenty of ideas for classroom parties, activities, and even a run down of common Room Mom duties. Download their free ebook, the Room Mom’s Survival Guide. It’s offered by the incredibly helpful people at VolunteerSpot.com, a great resource offering online sign-up sheets, scheduling tips, and volunteer management software and that makes coordinating volunteers easier for classroom Moms, scouting leaders, teachers, and coaches.
However you enjoy getting involved in your child’s school or activities is perfectly fine and should be appreciated by the teachers, scout leaders, coaches and your child. Give yourself a break – there’s no guilt needed here. Decide how much you want to give and then enjoy!
How do you fit the time into your schedule to volunteer for your child’s school or other activities?
My son is starting middle school this year. (I CAN”T BELIEVE IT! sniff.) This is the first year EVER where he can’t stop asking me when school is going to start. But, while he’s excited to head to a new, bigger school where he’ll have access to more friends, clubs, and social events, he is still a little apprehensive. It’s new and it’s change and that’s always scary.
To us it may not seem like a big deal but yourself in your kids’ shoes this Back-to-School season. Heading back to school is exciting but it can also cause a little fear or anxiety for your kids. Especially if they are starting a new school – jumping up to middle school or high school, moving to a neighborhood, or even taking that big step from kindergarten to all day first grade. Being introduced to a new building, new teachers, new classmates and even a locker with a lock is a big transition. Even if your child is excited and eager to go to their new school, they may be anxious about a few things and it’s helpful to identify their stress and talk it out.
Here are some tips to smooth the transition and start the new school year off right.
Get Them Involved.
Have your kids help you with the back to school shopping. They’ll feel more in control if they can help with the process of choosing their supplies, backpack and even school clothes.
Don’t Miss Orientations.
No matter what grade your kids are entering this year, be sure to attend Back-to-School Nights and Meet the Teacher(s) events before school starts. It makes a huge difference to see a friendly face on the first day of school.
Be relaxed but excited.
Kids can sense any anxiety you may be feeling, so be sure to talk positively about school. Don’t ask them if they are nervous if they haven’t even considered that they need to be nervous yet. (My kids run wild with the power of suggestion, so I try to head it off at the pass.) Talk positively with your child about new experiences and new friends.
Practice makes perfect.
Kids will feel more secure if they know what to expect so practice walking to school or the bus stop. Or drive to the school and say, “This is where I’ll park to pick you up or where the bus will drop you off and that is the door you will go into.” Walk through the middle or high school building with your kids so they can find their locker and their class rooms. Practice using a combination lock with your soon-to-be middle school student. I was surprised that this was one of the main anxieties for kids starting middle school.
Talk it out.
Nothing beats just talking about the upcoming school year. Take the opportunity to talk with your kids at the dinner table or while driving in the car to see what they are most excited about or what is making them a little nervous. Tell them how you felt when you started school. One thing that has worked well for us is to find a kid in the neighborhood that is a year or two older and have your child talk to them about what the new school is like.
If your child is bored of the same old lunch ideas, here are 8 fun and easy ideas to make lunch the highlight of your kids’ school day. They’ll be surprised with your creativity and you’ll be surprised how the lunch box comes home empty. See all of our Back-to-School Tips and Sanity-Saving Ideas here.
1. Get ‘em to pitch in.
Getting your child involved with the meal preparation is a great way to help ensure that they eat their lunch, not trade it away. Try filling one of each of three plastic baskets with fruits, vegetables and snacks. Then allow your child to pick one item from each basket for their lunch. Add a sandwich and a drink, and you’re done. They might actually eat all of their lunch if they got to choose what’s in it.
2. Theme of the week.
Your child’s classroom usually has a theme of the week so why not a lunch theme? Surprise your kids by incorporating a new lunch theme every few weeks, such as serving all red foods. Pair a strawberry jelly sandwich with cherry tomatoes and low-fat ranch dressing with cherry Jell-O for dessert. Meals could be all round foods (a bagel with cream cheese sandwich, an orange, and carrot rounds) or a backwards lunch (a sandwich with meat and cheese on the outside and a note written in reverse telling your child to eat dessert first). If you can figure out how to tie their lunch to their actual lesson plan that week, even better.
3. Shake it up.
Prepare the same old food in a new way. Instead of a regular peanut butter and jelly on white bread (ho hum), make Pinwheel PB&Js by rolling up the PB&J in a flour tortilla and slicing it into pinwheels (fun!). Try a peanut butter and raisin or banana sandwich for kicks. Try dark chocolate peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter. While some kids freak out when they see a new “food form,” as kids get older they will be willing to try more things, so don’t be afraid to shake it up.
4. Put it on a stick.
Take a plain old boring sandwich, put it on stick and suddenly you have a party. The Super Healthy Kids blog shows how easy it is to make a sandwich on a stick for your kids lunch box. They might even eat the a tomato with this presentation.
5. Order at the lunch counter.
For siblings who like different foods, make a chart of favorite foods with the child’s name at the top and foods they like and will eat for lunch underneath. This will serve as a menu for your kids. Make sure there are vegetable and fruit choices, as well. On Sunday, ask your kids to put in their order for a week’s worth of lunches in advance. They will feel like they are ordering at a restaurant and you have the plan for the week which makes shopping and prepping easier. For inspiration to include more items, check out FamilyFreshCooking.com’s Project Lunchbox. Your child is bound to find something tasty and healthy from her list.
6. A rose by any other name might be worth eating.
To make those healthy greens more interesting for your boys, label your food with a gross name. Cooked spinach could be “Sea Monster Hair”. Snow peas are “Alien Fingers”. Broccoli are “Mini Trees from the Haunted Forest.” They’ll look forward to your creativity. My son used to love this and helped me come up with gross names.
7. Cookies Cutters are your friends.
Cutting up your kids food is a fun and easy way to add a little surprise to your child’s lunch box. I’ve used cookie cutters to cut out sandwich shapes, fruit, brownies, lunch meat, and cheese. You can surprise your kids or I like to use the cookie cutters with my daughter. I love to see her creativity, and if she helps create the food, she’s more likely to eat it. These two-toned sandwiches from Spoonful.com reminds us of the Kissing Hand, a great book for kids going into kindergarten.
8. Lunch box notes.
Don’t limit your lunch box creativity to just the food. Slip a little note into your child’s lunch box to let them know that you are thinking of them. You can simply say you love them, encourage them on an upcoming test, or tell them a joke. Here’s an article with a ton of ideas for lunch box love notes.
Yes, some of these ideas take a little time and preparation. But remember; planning it on Sunday night for the weekdays will save you precious time on weeknights from trying to think of new lunch ideas. Or, just throw in the fun randomly when you have time. Your kids will never know what they’ll find that way.
What do you do to get your kids to eat their lunch at school?
Check out my Back-to-School Pinterest Board for Back-to-School tips and some additional school lunch ideas.
Back to school time is here! If you are like me I’m still desperately busy trying to enjoy the last days of summer. However, there’s work to be done to get your kids ready to head back to school. No need to panic though. You can still have your summer fun and get organized at the same time. This checklist will help you stay in control and prepare for the new school season with ease. Whether your child’s school starts next week or next month, with this list you won’t miss a step.
Make sure your child is properly registered for school.
Schedule any doctor or dental appointments if needed, to meet any immunization requirements before school starts. Get those medical forms signed by your doctor. If you don’t know what immunizations or forms are needed, call your school to ask.
Order any additional medications that need to be stored at school.
Make sure your kids have completed their summer reading lists or other homework assignments. If not, set up a schedule to get it done.
Sit down with your planner and write in the dates for all important back-to-school activities like orientations or school walk-throughs. Include after-school activities on the calendar, as well.
Go through your kids’ closet to see what fall clothes still fit, create your shopping list for what’s needed, and donate old clothes to make room for the new. Here are some tips on how to save money on school clothes.
3 Weeks Before School Starts
Go shopping! Get those backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, clothes, and school supplies. You can usually get your school supply list online from your school’s website. However, that may not include everything you need. Here’s a Back-to-School Shopping Checklist for busy Moms as well as tips on how to buy the right backpack or lunch box for your child.
Schedule a hair cut for your child so they look smashing for their annual first day of school photos.
2 Weeks Before School Starts
Create a landing spot in the house for your kids where they can keep their backpacks, lunch boxes, and other school gear or papers.
Talk to your kids about the upcoming school year. See if they are nervous or excited about the new year. If your child is entering kindergarten, middle school or high school this year, they may be nervous. Here are some tips to ease fears when starting a new school.
Confirm your transportation plans. What time and where is the bus coming? Who is carpooling? Get the kids comfortable with their pick up and drop off locations.
If needed, confirm any after school care plans. Is the babysitter ready to go? How is your child getting from school to their after school care location?
Kickstart your kids’ brains. In a fun way, start reviewing some basic skills with your kids like adding or multiplying. Read together at night or play some board games that require math.
Plan for some last minute family fun before school starts like a weekend getaway, activities to celebrate the last day of summer break, or prepare for any fun, first day of school traditions.
1 or 2 Days Before School Starts
Attend your meet-the teacher orientation and walk around the school with your kids to make sure they feel comfortable.
With your kids, pick their first day of school outfit and pack their backpack so there are no panic attacks early in the morning.
Make sure your camera is ready to go to take those first day of school photos.
It’s Back-to-School Central at our house so I was so excited to get this guest post from Sue Becker, a professional organization and productivity consultant I admire. As the founder of From Piles to Smiles, Sue has some great advice for busy Moms trying to get their kids ready to go back to school. Read her tips and keep the Back-to-School madness at bay:
Homework, early morning madness, ignored alarm clocks – they all mean one thing: it’s time for going back to school. Parents of bored children have looked forward to this event all summer, yet can still be overwhelmed at the thought of getting back into a school-year routine. Whether you’re a student or the parent of a student, use the following tips to help make the transition from summer fun to school-ready less frenzied and more enjoyable.
Set up a location for incoming papers. Rather than having them get buried at the bottom of a backpack or spread randomly throughout your home, designate a specific place for your student to deposit school papers until you have time to go through them. Consider putting an inbox on a seldom-used section of your kitchen counter, or near the door through which you typically enter your home. Set up this paperwork depository now, before the paperwork onslaught begins.
Make time each day for school work. Academic homework isn’t the only assignment that will need to be completed each day during the school year– you’ll have to make time to go through that inbox of school papers. They key is to process each paper as you handle it – sign the permission slip, write the check for the field trip, review the school work and decide which papers you’ll keep, etc. Practice being decisive and deliberate with your mail so you’ll be ready to efficiently handle school papers. In addition, put reminders in your planner now to go through the paperwork each day. If you keep up with the inflow, you won’t miss any important deadlines.
Get into a school bedtime routine. Don’t wait for school to start before you begin a bedtime routine. Start now getting your kids (and yourself) to bed at whatever time will allow them (and you) to get adequate sleep. You all need these extra few weeks to get your bodies conditioned to a new sleep pattern. Also, your kids won’t necessarily view an earlier bedtime as a school-related punishment if you start the routine well before the school year has begun.
Get your calendar back in action. The carefree, less-structured days of summer will soon give way to jam-packed, action-filled school-year mayhem. If you’ve fallen out of the habit, get back into the routine of using your calendar and writing everything on it – your appointments, your kids’ activities, and to-dos that will help you move smoothly through each day. You’ll set a good example for your kids and you won’t have to rely on your memory to keep you on track.
Set up your family activity binder. Set up a binder with sheet protectors where you and your family can find information about all the activities going on in your lives. You can insert schedules for the kids’ sports and activities, maps to various sports venues, team rosters, the school directory, etc. Be sure that all activities are still noted on your calendar – this binder is simply a supporting reference tool.
Check before you shop. Review your stash of school supplies from last year and make note of what you already have so you don’t buy more supplies than you need. Clean out your clothes closets, figure out what does and doesn’t fit, and make a shopping list of what items you’ll need to purchase. Take outgrown clothes to a resale shop or donate them so you can make room for your new purchases.
Plan meals and groceries. Take some time to plan school-year lunches and dinners now. Make a list of two-week’s worth of meals and create a shopping list of groceries. Take advantage of the calm before the school-year storm to have everything planned ahead of time so you can easily pack school lunches and get dinner on the table. Better yet, get your kids to pack their own lunches and help with dinner preparation .Keep up your system throughout the year for more pleasant family time. Here’s a link to a prior article I’ve written on this subject.
I’d love to hear what you do to make going back to school easier on yourself and your family.
Sue Becker, owner of From Piles to Smiles®, is an organizing and productivity consultant who can help you or your student create a supportive study space, effectively use a planner, and create and implement time management techniques. You can reach her or sign up for her newsletter to get more organizational tips at www.PilesToSmiles.com
I found this really cool infographic from Adam McClane on the Power of Camp for your kids. It’s a very compelling argument for why summer camp is needed. Not only to get up off of the couch but also to have adventures, enjoy nature, and find the time to think. Love it!
Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid? What do you remember about camp? Best times, worst times, cute counselors, etc.?
I can’t believe that school is over in a few weeks! Are your kids going to summer camp this year? Summer camps are important for creating friendships, exposing your kids to new interests, keeping their minds and bodies active during the summer, potentially exploring nature, and serving as childcare for working parents. Even if budgets are tight, you can send your kids to a few day camps during the summer to keep them active.
There are so many amazing options for summer camp and summer activities that we never had. It makes me want to be a kid again. Space camp, art camp, lego robot building camp, Math camp, and even Harry Potter Wizard camps are all available to meet any interests. There are even some wonderful special needs camps, just search online or ask your pediatrician for recommendations. My daughter went to Type 1 diabetes camp one summer after she was diagnosed to meet other kids and learn about caring for her body. But how do you choose which camp is right for your child?
What was important to me in choosing a summer camp was:
Trust – Did I feel comfortable leaving my child with the counselors? Ask around your neighborhood to get recommendations. See if your kids’ teachers are going to be summer camp counselors anywhere. Or, ask to meet some of the counselors before you register.
Mingling – Are young and older kids lumped together? We had an issue one year where my younger son was hanging out with the older kids at camp in an unstructured play area. Even though there were counselors supervising, he was learning a lot of inappropriate behavior and language. We also had some issues with bullying from older kids. The counselors were great once I brought the issue to their attention but it created some unnecessary stress.
Fun – Are my kids going to enjoy this experience and were there enough interests for both my son and daughter to go to the same place? Even if your child is going to a summer camp to help them with reading or math, what fun activities are planned to keep the kids interested?
Size – Would the kids be broken into groups so it wasn’t overwhelming and they wouldn’t get lost in the crowd? Some kids do great in large crowds but some don’t. See how the kids are divided up during the activities, lunch and even free time.
Location & timing – With two working parents, is it easy for one of us to drop off and pick up the kids? Do they have extended care hours before and after camp, if you need it?
Familiarity – Ask your neighbors or your childs’ friends if they are going to summer camp. If you can coordinate it, sometimes it’s nice for kids to see a face they know on the first day of camp. If they know a fellow camper, a counselor, or even the building it can make it easier for them to jump in on the first day.
How do you choose the right summer camp for your child?
I hope this helps you choose the right summer camp for your kids. We all want to be Happy Campers! Check out my Summer Camp Checklist, with some ideas for everything you and your kids need before starting summer camp.
The school year is winding down and the last day of school is quickly approaching. I’m not ready! But, there is one big, last homework assignment for Moms and that’s the end-of-year teachers’ gifts. I try to get my kids’ teachers something either really unique or something they could really use, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with ideas.
I live in a neighborhood with a lot of teachers so I asked them what teacher’s gifts they appreciated most. You can read their answers in my post 10 Perfect Teacher’s Gift Ideas.
The Homespun with Love blog created a cute bucket full of school supplies for teacher to use next year. Click through to see how easy it was to make.
Do you give gifts to your child’s teacher at the end of the year? Some people do and some don’t. Giving gifts to teachers is even illegal in one state. Read my article Teacher’s Gifts: To Give or Not to Give over at Patch.com to learn where. There are some nice comments from teachers at the end of the article.
What do you normally get your kids’ teachers at the end of the school year? Please share your ideas. Teachers, feel free to weigh in on what you appreciate the most.
As a small business owner, I know that every penny counts. So I’m thrilled to be able to offer one lucky reader a chance to win 250 free business cards from Uprinting.com. Whether you want to promote your business, your blog or just produce some fun Mommy calling cards, this giveaway is a great opportunity to look professional and save some money.
Uprinting is an online printing company that offers a wide range of marketing products to help you promote your business or blog. What makes the company unique is their large format printing options, free file review service which requires no upfront payment to review proofs, and their commitment to eco-friendly printing processes and recycled paper options. Uprinting serves their customers with a very user-friendly web site to make ordering super easy for busy business owners. But what caught my eye was the option to choose die-cut shapes for your business cards such as rounded corners, leaf, half circle, circle or oval, to present your business in a distinctive way.
Take advantage and be distinctive! UPrinting is offering 250 business cards to one lucky Chocolate Cake Moments reader. Simply fill out the easy Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win! Good luck.
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Well, this just takes all. I woke up this morning to read that today, January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Who knew?!? Who knew it was their day, let alone that they feel under-appreciated. Knowing that any rodent can have its own day now, I can’t wait for Elephant Shrew Day. What is an elephant shrew, you ask? It’s my daughter’s favoritest new animal and she feels that they deserve a day too.
But I digress. Back to the squirrels. I want to know what prompted someone to call for a National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Were they not getting enough attention? They are in every commercial out there now. I think they even have Hollywood agents. You don’t see moles getting their own commercials. What’s wrong with moles?
Sure, squirrels are cute. Sure, they are entertaining when they are chasing each other around the yard. But, they also eat my Halloween pumpkins and they ate all of the candy out of our Easter eggs one year. The yard looked like a pastel-colored yard sale once they got through cracking the plastic eggs. The kids were crushed. What’s up with that, squirrels?
However, if you love squirrels, today is the day to show them some appreciation. Here are some tips and a fun squirrel video from the National Wildlife Federation on 7 Ways to Celebrate National Squirrel Day.
Want to give your kids a “Chocolate Cake Moment” today? Send them to school or preschool with a lunch box love note. I love throwing a little note, joke, drawing, or something special into our kids’ lunch boxes to remind them that my husband and I are thinking of them. My 6th grade son still likes to find a surprise note. My daughter told me that even though some kids make fun when they see a lunch box note from Mom in a classmate’s lunch box, she says it makes kids smile inside and feel special. It’s such an easy way to add a smile to a kid’s day. (Try it on your husband too. He may love it!)
However, some days it’s just too hard to be creative or author the perfect note. If the coffee hasn’t kicked in it’s hard for me to even write legibly. So, I decided to ask for a little help and inspiration. Last year, we ran a contest asking people for lunch box love note ideas. There were some great ideas on how to send your kids a long distance smile. From words of encouragement to reminders to knock-knock jokes and even funny drawings, there are so many cute ways to say “I Love You.”
We compiled all of your ideas and divided them into categories as inspiration. The list was so long that I’m only going to list some of my favorites here by category but if you want more inspiration, you can see all of the ideas here. Happy note writing!
Declaration of Love: Let me count the ways
“For my honey … some extra cookies to share with your friends. Love you!”
“U R My Sunshine!”
“Mommy loves you to the moon and back!”
Notes of Encouragement
“You are my shining star, Brighter than any in the sky by far!”
“Hey Sweets- I know you will ace your test today! You make me proud everyday!”
“Good Luck on your test! I know you can do it!”
“No, I miss YOU more”!
“Thinking of you, anything good going on?”
Reminders: Don’t forget …
“Please be good…mommy loves you! p.s. remember to eat all your real food before you start on dessert.”
“Just remember, there’s a kiss in your hand if you need it.”
“Remember to listen, watch, learn and love…”
Funny Notes: Make ‘em laugh
“I would take a bite out of a sandwich or snack, then put in a napkin, and on the napkin write:
“Oh! There was a mouse in your lunch! Hope you don’t miss that bite like the mouse misses you!”
“My husband likes to write cute notes to our 6-year-old daughter that pertain to what is in her lunch. For example: if there is an apple, he would write ‘Have an apple of a day my sweetie!’ or if I pack a string cheese he would write ‘Cheese… have a happy day at school!’ … strawberries would get ‘You are so berry sweet!!!! We love you… mommy and daddy’ and so on.”
Visual: When no words are needed
I would draw a picture of a hand and a heart in the middle of it to represent the “kissing hand
Stickers or cut a fun picture out of a magazine are easy ways to make a note
My daughter loves to draw so I draw a few lines on a note and tell her to finish the picture and bring it back to me.
Teasers: Something to look forward to
3 more hours until game night! Love you! XOXO
When your school day is done, Mommy will pick you up and we will have more fun!
We’re having your favorite – TACOS! – for dinner! Yippee!!
So, keep it up Moms and give your child a secret “Chocolate Cake Moment” while at school. With all of these great ideas, there’s no excuse not to throw a love note in your kids lunch box tomorrow morning.
Faster than a travel soccer team practice three nights a week, stronger than two-a-day football practices, able to leap piano lessons and marching band in a single bound, it’s SuperMom!
Do visions of running your children to all of their after school activities have you pulling at your superhero tights and breaking into a cold sweat? (It’s not the itching, but the chafing that bugs me.) Fear not! All it takes is some advanced planning and family guidelines to take the pressure off of you. Enlist your children and your spouse in this planning, and then the burden of organizing all of the after school activities won’t necessarily call for super hero strength–just some flexibility.
Write it down—all of it
Get in the habit now of writing everything down in one place. Keep a master family calendar to keep track of each family member’s activities. There are several Mom or Family Planning Calendar brands on the market, so see which one works best for you or create your own. While it is awesome for Mom and Dad to keep their schedules synched in Google Calendar or using Cozi.com, the kids may not be able to see it so easily and we want them to start taking responsibility for knowing when they have activities.
With a wall calendar, hang it low enough for the kids to reach to write down their own activities. They can keep track of special classes like art or music, activities or sports, or playmates and birthday parties. Have fun with the schedule. Let them add stickers or smiley faces or whatever they like to remind them of important days. Just get into the habit of everybody checking the calendar daily before they go to bed, so everyone knows what’s going on the next day.
Have weekly calendar sessions with the whole family every Sunday night to update the calendar. This helps you keep everyone on the same page and avoids potential scheduling conflicts before they occur. (This way no one in the family can claim … “But, no one told me.”)
Keep it together
Keep all of your kids activity stuff together in a duffle bag or backpack. Have a special duffle bag for soccer with pads, shoes, uniform and a water bottle. Keep all of this gear in the bag hanging in the coat room or garage. After you wash the uniform, throw it in the soccer duffle bag. Don’t take it upstairs and put it away in a dresser. That’s just an extra step. The ready-to-go bag will make life easier when you are late for practice and running out the door. You won’t need to go hunting for all of the gear you need. “Why are my soccer shoes in the pantry?” If you have two sports going on at the same time, get two separate duffle bags.
Same for piano lessons, keep all of the books, folders, etc. in a designated backpack. It’s always ready to go when you are and keeps the clutter in the rest of the house down to a minimum. Invest in hooks for extra backpacks. It’s worth it.
Say NO once in a while
Busy moms and kids get a lot done in part because they are so busy. But remember to schedule in some down time between activities. Don’t pack the schedule so full that all you are doing is running from one thing to the next. Where’s the joy in that?
Step back, and remember that it is OK to say No to some things. The world will still go on, and someone else can run the bake sale this year. It is an important time management lesson to teach your child that you are choosing to do only what is most important to you and your family.
We tell our kids that they can do 1 extra activity per “quarter”. While we insist on things like Spanish, swim lessons, or music at different times to make sure they are getting exposed to different talents, we let them choose something THEY want to do, as well. Whether they want to play soccer, basketball, gymnastics, art classes, Tae Kwon Do or nothing, they start to learn how to choose and set their own priorities, and then you aren’t in the car 24/7. If you are feeling burned out, take a few months off with no activities. The kids will still get into college. In fact, read this New York Times article about Family Happiness and the Overbooked Child, which stresses that children’s activities offer no guarantee of success later in life.
Think about how taking on another activity or group or commitment will affect the entire family, and say no to ones that you or your kids don’t love. Kids also need an appropriate amount of time to do homework. Make sure they get it. Children and adults all need down time to just hang out and relax. Don’t overbook so you can use that new found time to create more “Chocolate Cake Moments”!
Roll with the changes
These days, everyone seems to have a jam packed schedule. Know that sometimes it won’t always be perfect. You can’t be SuperMom (even though you may come very close). Try your best to be organized, but stay flexible. When the schedule gets messed up, have back up plans in place for quick, easy dinners or a carpool driver on speed dial. If you miss an appointment, don’t beat yourself up. If you signed up for an activity where the coach insists on holding practice during church or important family times, quit and choose another program. You and your family are all in this together, and you will get through it in flying colors. The goal is to remember that nothing is more important than having time to spend together as a family.
How do you keep the family schedule and your kids’ activities organized?
Does going back to school mean plying your child out of bed with a crowbar? Does every morning bring a fight between them, you and the covers? Funny how on Saturdays and during the summer they can get up at the crack of dawn, but once school starts it’s game over. Try these tips to make rising and shining a little easier.
1. Wake up, Little Susie
Some kids need time to come awake while others snap to it. You may need to set the alarms early enough to accommodate some sitting-and-staring-into-space time. Another idea to get them out of bed is to set two alarms, one on the opposite side of the room. The fact of having to physically get up and turn it off means your child is that much closer to being awake. There are some fun Talking Kids Alarm Clocks that can ease your child awake with kiss noises or snap them awake with a dinosaur roar. See if setting an alarm to a radio station works better than just a buzzer. Or you can try tuning it to loud radio static to encourage them to get up and turn it off.
2. Rise and Shine
Try to wake them with their nose. Use favorite smells to lure them out of bed, such as cinnamon-raisin toast, or crispy bacon frying or coffee brewing for teens.
While I’m not this dedicated, we found one suggestion that on cold winter mornings, you can throw their clothes into the dryer for a few minutes. Pulling on warm clothes may help inspire them to leave their warm bed. (Honestly, if you do that, you are my SuperMom hero.)
3. Early to bed, early to rise
Tell your child that you will keep pushing bedtime earlier and earlier until they are able to wake up earlier. The thought of having to go to bed at 7:30 p.m. may be just the thing to motivate them to wake up in the morning. Getting a good night’s sleep, as simple as it sounds, may solve the problem, too. We all know that we do best on a routine.
4. Eliminate distractions
Your kids need to wind down and relax so they can fall asleep and feel rested. This will help with getting them up in the morning. So, give your kids the opportunity to relax and unclutter their mind before bed. When they are young, read a goodnight story together. As they get older, have them read chapter books to you or read on their own. Don’t schedule activities too late in the evening. For tweens and teens, have them plug their cell phones into the charger in the kitchen before going to bed and leave it there! No texting until all hours late at night. Sleep deprivation is dangerous for teens according to this article by the Mayo Clinic.
Same thing is true in the morning. Once they are up, no TV, no computers, no cell phones until they are dressed, have eaten breakfast, prepared their lunch, or packed up their backpack. Eliminating distractions before their chores are done can help keep the morning moving smoothly.
5. Desperate times call for desperate measures
If all else fails, march into your child’s room, bang on a pan with a wooden spoon, singing “The Wheels on the Bus” at the top of your lungs. (While this might be a little cruel, I tend to look at it as payback for all the times they woke me up in the middle of the night.)
Hopefully these tips will help get your kids up and out the door in time for the bus. Now go have a cup of coffee and a deep breath!
I have to admit, I’m not a labeler. Every year around Back-to-School time I would read about how Moms should label their kids’ preschool and school items but I never got around to it. Maybe I would write their initials on a tag with a Sharpie pen, but that really wasn’t going to do much to get an item back if it was lost.
So, when Name Bubbles contacted me to try their back-to-school name labels, I jumped at the chance to see what I was missing or doing wrong all these years. If you have ever had to rummage through the school’s lost and found box, you’ll understand why I was very interested in changing my family’s organizational habits. Now that I’ve tried them, I have to admit I’m hooked!
Name Bubbles Labels come in a variety of sizes and styles that are – get this – waterproof, dishwasher, laundry, and microwave safe. That’s perfect for labeling all of the items your kids use when they leave the house. Cool! The labels are made of a vinyl material with a non-toxic, eco-solvent ink to provide fun color and durability. There are custom name label packs for School, Childcare, Sports, and Camp, depending on what you need. They even have labels to put in your kids shoes! If you have every been to a birthday party with 20 kids’ shoes lying by the front door and several of them the same style, you’ll be so thankful that you can find your kids shoes before their next birthday party rolls around.
In addition, once you are hooked on labeling they have packs for other aspects of your life like Elder Care, College, and Luggage. They even have a Party Pack where you can order personalized labels to give as party favors at your kids’ birthday party. The party guests go home with a set of labels personalized with their name. Cool! I’m always on the look out for unique kids’ birthday party favors and this is one of the most useful I’ve seen yet.
Since my son camps a lot with Boy Scouts, I’m digging the Camp Label pack since he had a fiasco last camp out with someone accidentally taking his new sleeping bag. We had written his name on the bag but it wasn’t prominent enough, I guess. These labels will help going forward. The large square bubble labels in the Camp Pack are perfect for big ticket items like a camera, iPod, or cell phone that you really want to come home from camping trips.
At summer camp, my kids lost their towel and swimsuit practically every day. I wish I had these labels two summers ago! A waterproof label on their swim gear would have made searching through the lost and found box a lot easier.
I remember when my kids were in day care and we were just labeling the bottles with masking tape and a pen. I wish I had the labels from Name Bubble’s Childcare Pack way back when. It would have made life easier, let along made the bottle look a little nicer too.
Applying the Name Bubble Labels is pretty easy, too. Stick the labels on and wait 24 hours before getting them wet. The company claims the adhesive will stay put in extreme conditions and so far I’ve seen that to be true. The packages are affordable – $20 to $43 dollars depending on which pack you are ordering. Now that I am hooked, I definitely see how the cost is small compared to how easy they are to apply and how nice the label looks.
Another great product that Name Bubbles offers is the Allergy, Medical or Special Needs Alert stickers that you can apply to your child’s lunch boxes, bottles, food containers, diaper bag, and even favorite toys. You can customize the labels to list your emergency contact information or indicate that your child is Autistic and doesn’t like to be touched.
Disclaimer: Name Bubbles did send me a free press kit with sample labels to review. All opinions expressed are mine, though. I’m stubborn that way.
What are some of your tips for labeling your kids’ school, camp and day care gear?
The start of a new school year is always a big deal. I used to love getting a new outfit, crisp new school supplies, and even a new haircut some years. While my son is excited to go back to school and my daughter is not, I’m celebrating because the start of a new school year means new opportunities, new friends, and new milestones for my kids. Whether your kids look forward to going back to school or not, do take the time to celebrate and start some new family traditions to create some fun memories.
1. Throw a party. You’ll find some great inspiration for decorations or treats for a Back-to-School party from Dawn at the Not Just a Mommy blog. Her party ideas are AWESOME!
Or keep it simple with an impromptu, neighborhood firepit party either the weekend before or after school starts. Our neighborhood is pretty friendly so if you build a firepit, they will come to the party. If that won’t work, type up a quick flyer and have the kids hand it out to the neighbors or spread the word as you walk the dog around the block. Tell everyone to bring their own drinks and bring some munchies to share. The parents talk about who got which teacher, who’s going to be at the bus stop, and what to look forward to this school year. If your child is going into kindergarten, it’s a perfect time to pair him or her up with an older kid to help them on the bus. The kids can compare notes on which teacher they like or who they have a crush on so far this year!
2. Breakfast for Champions. Start the day off with a celebration by going out as a family to one of your favorite breakfast places. Or get up a little early and make the kids their favorite breakfast foods.
3. Bring Treats for classmates – Start the school year off with a gift to the rest of the class with these Back to School Treats from the Blackberry vine blog.
4. Countdown the Days – The East Coast Mommy Blog created a super cute tradition of counting down the days to school or preschool with her kids using candy and a jar. Your kids can have one candy a day until school starts or you could put in a candy every day and then after their first day of school they get to eat them all as a special treat. Your choice!
5. Capture the Moment – Pick a location in your house and every year take a picture of your child with their backpack or holding a Back-to-School sign with their grade on it so you can compare how your kids have grown. Rebecca Cooper offers some great tips on taking First Day of School photos on her blog. I definitely need help with my photos!
Building on the idea of capturing the moment, the Art Projects for Kids has a great idea of having the kids draw a self-portrait on the first day of school. Then you can see how their art skill and self-awareness grow over time.
6. Survey Says! – Here’s a fun idea from one of our readers, Debby B. –
We used to take surveys. I’d write down their answers for favorite subject, color, shape, number, book, band/song–whatever. It’s fun to see year to year what their favorites are.
Then, at the Mother Huddle, read about the German tradition of giving kids “>Schultuete School Cones on their first day of school.
8. Boo Hoo Breakfast. This tradition from the Roots & Wings Blog is for Moms only, and it involves breakfasty treats. Yes! Grab your family and friends and organize a Boo Hoo breakfast where you meet after dropping the kids off on the first day of school to laugh, cry and have fun talking about the kids going off for another year of school. I’m in!
9. Snack & Chat. I like to make a special after school snack for the kids so we can munch and chat all about their first day. We usually make Chocolate Fondue as our first day of school treat. You can grab my recipe from my Beat the Back-to-School Blues post.
What traditions do you have to celebrate the first day of school?
Now that school has started, I’m sure you’ve started greeting the kids at the door with “How was school today?” Are you getting the famous one word reply– “Fine”? Or my favorite, “OK.” Ah, communication at it’s best.
Getting your kids to actively talk about their day can be a challenge but here are some tips that have worked for us on how to get your kids to talk more about their day.
Greet, don’t grill.
Kids can get defensive and feel intimidated when you ask them about school right as they get off the bus. Don’t grill them about their day as soon as they walk in the door. “What did you do today? What did you learn? What did you have for lunch?” Just take it easy and truly show them you are just happy to see them again. This worked wonders for my family since the kids didn’t drag their feet coming home to tell me bad news. They knew they could ease into it.
We found an article that Jim Fay wrote and he calls this technique the “30 minutes rule.” Don’t talk about school or your work for 30 minutes after greeting each other. You don’t want to hear bad news about your kid’s day and they don’t want you to take out any work aggression on them. Don’t let school or work ruin your relationship with your child. Make sure you are both happy to greet each other. You can read his other hints here.
It’s great if your child begins the talking first. One day, don’t ask them about school at all and see what happens. Kids are usually less defensive and more willing to share their school experience when they start to talk first. So hold back the questions and just let them tell you. Or, see if they ask you about your day. (We can dream, can’t we?) (more…)
My kids were positively gloom and doom this morning when they had to go back to school. (Why does school start so early? Why do I even have to go to school? Ninjas don’t need to learn math. Why don’t you ever buy me any decent pants?) Insert your kids’ favorite whining here.
Now I like a good wine, I mean whine, when it’s me doing the whining. I certainly don’t want to condone the kids’ whiny behavior, but I was thinking of doing something special for the kids this evening to “celebrate” or “ease the pain” of going back to school after they had so much fun and freedom this summer. My plan? Chocolate Fondue! What better way to create a Chocolate Cake Moment than with hot, gooey chocolate?
You can certainly surprise the kids with this treat after the first day of school or maybe on Friday after their first week of school to celebrate them getting back into the swing of homework.
Kirchner’s Chocolate Fondue
1 lb. of your favorite milk chocolate bar (we like Ghirardellis)
4 oz. dark chocolate bar
3/4 cup heavy cream (you can use half and half for less calories)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Break the chocolate bars into pieces and place in your fondue, hot pot, or double boiler. Keep on a low setting. (If you don’t have any of those, just use a regular pot on very low setting and make sure you keep stirring.) Add cream and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. (If you are melting this on a stove top, watch the heat. Don’t walk away or the chocolate will boil and be ruined.) Stir in the vanilla right before serving. Then dip away!
Dipping Suggestions(In order of our kids preference):
Salted pretzel sticks
Cubed pound cake
Angel food cake
Hazelnut or almond biscotti (more for the adults)
Have fun!Do you do anything to celebrate the first day of school?
School has either started or is about to start and that means school papers are about to coming flooding into your house. Even if your school has gone “paperless” like ours, between my two kids, we still bring home about 10 papers a day that need to be signed, saved, recycled, or kept for an upcoming event. To avoid the piles of clutter in your kitchen, check out these tips on how to organize your kids’ school paperwork so that nothing gets lost and you keep the clutter under control.
For more Back-to-School Sanity Saving Tips for Moms, check out all of my Back-to-School parenting tips. From packing more fun into your kids lunch box, to volunteering at school with ease, to getting your kids to talk more about their day, I want to help make this Back-to-School season less stressful for you.
How do you keep all of your kids’ school paperwork organized?
My kids are not at all excited about going back to school. They love staying up later, playing with their friends all day, and enjoying some really cool camps this summer. So, I went on a hunt online to find some fun back-to-school treats to cheer them up a little about going back to school. (Or, make them as treats for you and your husband to celebrate that the kids are finally going back to school and we can get the family back into a routine.) Either way, have fun cooking together and enjoy!
I just discovered Jenni Price’s website that has the most amazing pancake designs! She’s an illustrator and enjoys creating art with pancake batter. Check out her Back-to-School Pancake Pop Treats. Go to her site to download the incredibly detailed instructions and check out all of her other Pancake designs. You’ll be running for the kitchen to start creating something.
Jill from the Meet the Dubiens Blog made the most adorable after school snack with an owl theme. I can’t wait to make this for my kids next week. Head over to her site for the instructions. (more…)
Does the idea of packing healthy school lunches for your kids make you break into a nervous sweat? After one week of school have you depleted your creative ideas for lunch? Do your kids come home telling you that they didn’t eat because they didn’t like anything in their lunch box? Don’t fear! Getting your child to eat his or her lunch just takes a little planning and creativity. Here are 5 ideas to make school lunches the highlight of your kids’ day.
1. Shake it up.
Prepare the same old food in a new way. Instead of a regular peanut butter and jelly on white bread (ho hum), make Pinwheel PB&Js by rolling up the PB&J in a flour tortilla and slicing it into pinwheels (fun!). Try a peanut butter and raisin or banana sandwich for kicks. Try dark chocolate peanut butter instead of regular. While some kids freak out when they see a new “food form,” as kids get older they will be willing to try more things, so don’t be afraid to shake it up. (And, if they are really hungry, they’ll at least try it.) Plus, if your kids are like mine, they actually try new stuff when they aren’t at home. I still remember my son coming home one day to tell me how awesome salami was because he had it at a friend’s house. Obviously, my many attempts to get him to try it were lame.
2. Get ‘em to pitch in.
Getting your child involved with the meal preparation is a great way to help ensure that they eat their lunch, not trade it away. It also makes them feel more grown-up. You could try filling one of each of three plastic baskets with fruits, vegetables and snacks. Then allow your child to pick one item from each basket for their lunch. Add a sandwich and a drink, and you’re done. They might actually eat all of their lunch if they got to choose what’s in it.
3. Chart it.
For siblings who like different foods, make a chart of favorite foods with the child’s name at the top and foods they like and will eat for lunch underneath. Then you can simply pick items from the list when you are still tired in the morning before your coffee kicks in. Keeping it simple and easy for Mom!
4. Theme of the week.
Surprise your kids by incorporating a new lunch theme every few weeks, such as serving all red foods. Pair a strawberry jelly sandwich with cherry tomatoes and low-fat ranch dressing with cherry Jell-O for dessert. Meals could be all round foods (a bagel with cream cheese sandwich, an orange, and carrot rounds) or a backwards lunch (a sandwich with meat and cheese on the outside and a note written in reverse telling your child to eat dessert first).
5. A rose by any other name might be worth eating.
To make those healthy greens more interesting for your boys, label your food with a gross name. Cooked spinach could be Sea Monster Hair. Snow peas are Alien Fingers. Broccoli are mini trees from the Haunted Forest. They’ll look forward to your creativity. (So would I. Let me know what you named everything in your kids lunch. I’ll share it in a future post.)
Yes, these ideas take a little time and prep to make. But remember; planning it on Sunday night for the weekdays will save you precious time on weeknights from trying to think of new lunch ideas. Or, just throw in the fun randomly when you have time. Your kids will never know what they’ll find that way.
In a future post, I’ll highlight some fun things you can do by making a kids bento box lunch. Have fun and here’s to healthy lunches for your kids this year!
What do you do to make your kids’ lunch less boring?
Get a Family Calendar.
A Master Family Calendar is imperative for keeping track of the family’s commitments and should be easily accessible for everyone. Teach your kids how to look at the family calendar and increase their sense of responsibility by letting them know what they need to prepare for the next day. Keep the calendar in the kitchen or a common room. Here are some ideas to keep on track:
Once school starts, have them sit with you and write in which days they have gym, art or music. That way you know if you need to bring or wear sneakers on gym day.
Make it a habit to look at the calendar together after dinner so that everyone can prepare.
Check their backpack to find those papers with new important dates to mark on the calendar.
Dad will appreciate the family calendar when he comes home from work and can’t find anyone. He can check the calendar and see we’re all at soccer practice. MomAgenda has some great desktop and wall calendars to help you keep track of the family. You can download a free weekly family calendar from Mommytracked.com. For you and your spouse to stay coordinated, try the free Cosi online Family Calendar service or sync up your calendars using Google Calendars. Even if you use your Smartphone to keep your personal schedule, it’s nice to a have a written central calendar that the rest of the family can refer to, as well.
Give your self time.
Your kids can sense your moods. They are like bats that way. Keeping yourself upbeat and calm in the morning can work wonders on how your kid’s day goes. Whether it may be getting up extra early if you need to begin the day with a quiet morning, or just a cup of extra strong coffee is all you need; be sure to give your child your brightest smile in the morning- that is the best gift you can give to help them through the rest of the day. Then, when they get on the bus or your drop them off, have another cup of coffee. While it’s not fair that you are the one that needs to sacrifice those extra precious minutes of sleep, it’s better for all to not be freaked out in the morning.
Breakfast, it does a body good.
Breakfast doesn’t need to be elaborate but it does set the energy level for the whole day. Keep it simple with cereal, yogurt, granola, fruit, frozen waffles (no-trans fat, please) and hard boiled or scrambled eggs, if they’ll eat it. We introduced our kids to a European-style bread, ham and cheese breakfast and they love it. It’s easy to make on a busy school morning. My kids also love VitaMuffins and our microwave scrambled egg cooker. It’s a fast and easy way to get protein into them. On Sunday, make pancakes or French toast and freeze it for the week. Don’t let your kids skip breakfast though. Have them eat a cereal bar or banana at the very least, to get the brain going.
The week before school starts, get up a little earlier and try out some new breakfast options to see which the kids like best. That way once school starts you have a breakfast plan.
To make it easier for school night meal planning, use our MomAgenda Weekly Meal pads and Grocery Shopping Pads. You can plan out breakfasts, sack lunch, and dinners ahead of time to make it easier to shop for groceries and eliminate the need to brainstorm last minute dinners.
Any other tips for us on getting the family into a back-to-school routine? Please share.
Getting your kids to switch from the crazy, free days of summer into a Back-to-School routine again can be a little challenging. “I don’t want to go to bed!”“I’m not tired!” My husband and I can’t seem to get the kids in bed before 10 p.m. this summer but with the new school season creeping closer, we need to take charge and get the kids back on track. (And, reclaim our evening downtime.)
With just a little advanced planning, you can get everyone back into a School frame of mind. Here’s what works for us.
Get in the Groove Again.
A week or two before school starts, get the kids back into a routine. No more sleeping in front of the TV. No more waking up at noon or with younger kids, no more waking up at 6 a.m. for no reason. Reestablish a bed time, start reading a story again before bed, and wake the kids up earlier in the morning to get their body back into a “school sleeping cycle.”
State the Rules.
Sit down at the dinner table one night and lay down your expectations for the school year. Remind them of the family rules like:
No breakfast until they are fully dressed
Backpack ready the night before
No TV or Wii until homework is done
No friends over until homework is done
By stating these up front as a reminder, your kids should have the rules down pat by oh, say Middle School. However, you’ll feel better that you did your “Momly” duty.
As a visual reminder, make a chart that reminds the kids what they need to do each morning or before bed – brush teeth, get backpack ready, set out clothes for the next day, make bed. This takes away your need to nag, … or at least nag less. We sell a Magnetic Kids Chore Chart that we use daily to help with the reminders. (We also tie their allowance to the chart, so the kids actually use it.)
Address hidden emotional concerns.
Kids are usually worried about going back to school, even if they don’t express it. So ask them. Sit down at dinner and go around the table to ask your kids what they are most excited about and most worried about for the upcoming year. You’ll be surprised at what concerns them and you may be able to help them eliminate the concern before school even starts. But only if you know what’s bothering them. Most of your child’s concern will most likely come from not knowing what to expect (so ask an older neighbor kid), where their class room is (go see it when you Meet the Teacher), or how to get on and off the bus (ask an older neighbor to be their bus buddy). Give them the confidence to start school right.
If your child is headed off to kindergarten, middle school or high school this year, they may be nervous about what to expect. These are big transitions! I know for me it happened so long ago (sigh!) that it’s easy to forget the anxiety and secret fears of going to a brand new school or starting a new phase in your school career.
Whether your child is excited and eager to go to the new school (for a few of you lucky parents) or anxious and unsure (for most of us), read my post at Patch.com “Tips to Ease Kids’ Fears When Starting A New School” with tips to smooth the transitions and start the year off right.
Do you have a child starting kindergarten, middle school or high school this year? Are they nervous or excited?
The Back-to-School shopping season has officially started. Agh! Stores have swapped their summer merchandise for Fall clothing and back-to-school essentials, so good luck finding a bathing suit now. Have you started shopping yet to send your kids back to school or off to preschool?
To make your life a little easier, here are some money saving and bargain shopping tips to make this Back-to-School season a little easier on the wallet.
1. Always have your school supplies list with you. You never know when you’ll run into a bargain somewhere. Start checking off the items as you buy them to avoid duplicates. Sometimes stores you don’t expect have some good school supply deals.
2. Only buy what you need. Your kids are constantly growing and while you think their clothes from last year might still fit, they might not. Starting now, have your kids do a fashion show for you to see what in their closet still fits and what can be given away. Now you can make a list of what clothes, shoes, backpacks, and other accessories you need so you don’t over buy.
3. Wait to buy school clothes until after Labor Day. You’ll see more coupons and sales running then. Also, it never ceases to amaze me that after I buy my son new jeans in August, he grows an inch in September. There’s nothing worse than having a bag full of new clothes that your kids suddenly can’t wear. Wait until late September to make sure any last minute growth spurts are out of the way.
4. Search online for coupons to your favorite stores. There are all kinds of coupon sites out there to help you find a code. Don’t forget to check the store’s site directly. Some store sites offer coupons to new customers for signing up for their e-newsletters or listing their own coupons and deals. Psst!Shameless Plug: If you sign up for ChocolateCakeClub.com’s newsletter, we’ll send you a 15% off coupon for your first order. Our sister site has everything you need for back-to-school or off-to-preschool like school and toddler backpacks, messenger bags, waste free lunch boxes, water bottles, alarm clocks, supply bags, kids art storage folders, toddler nap mats, and even school paper organizers for Mom.
5. Check second-hand clothes shops or garage sales for kids clothes. Many times, these clothes were never worn and still have the tag on them. Some churches and Moms groups have used clothing sales so keep your eye out.
6. Host a neighborhood kids clothes swap. If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids or if you have a lot of friends with kids all different ages, host a clothes swap. Have all the Moms over for some chocolate cake. Tell them to bring their kids’ gently used clothes and see if you can swap. Set up a Yahoo! Group and have your friends and neighbors list their sizes before the swap meet. Even if you don’t end up doing much swapping, you’ll have a fun time getting together.
7. Finally, remember to write your kid’s name on the tag of their coat/jacket, backpack, lunch bag, etc. Stuff always gets lost but you might have a better chance of reclaiming it from the school Lost and Found box if you label it. Then you won’t have to spend more money replacing items.
It’s Back-to-School Season, when the kids are done jumping into pools and beginning to jump into books. That means one thing – Back-to-School Shopping!. If your kids need a new backpack or their very first backpack for school or preschool, we’ve made life easier for you with these tips on how to choose the perfect backpack for your kids.
Your child will go through three backpack-size phases in their school years – preschool, elementary school, and middle/high school. While you may have more than one backpack during those times, most backpacks will fall into one of these three backpack “sizes” so you’ll need to pick the right one for your child.
PRESCHOOL OR DAYCARE
A preschool or toddler backpack should be small and simple, just big enough to carry those toddler essentials like a change of clothes, snack, BFF blankie, or a stuffed animal. Generally, a toddler backpack will fit a child ages 2 – 5 years old. So ask yourself, what do they need to bring every day and will this backpack hold it? Are you going to carry it or are they? If they are going to carry their own backpack to preschool then it needs to be smaller and very lightweight. You don’t want them looking like a deformed turtle as they walk down the driveway.
If you think you might use the bag while traveling, look for a Pull Along Backpack, one with a handle to make it easier for your child to pull instead of wear.
Most toddler-friendly backpacks are about 10″ – 12″ high and 10″ – 12″ wide. However, some can get as large as 14″ tall, but I would recommend that size for 4 or 5 year old rather than a 2 year old.
Pay attention to how the backpack opens and closes, as well. The younger the toddler the harder it may be for them to work a zipper, so you might want one with just a flap like this Quilted Toddler Backpack, which is machine washable as well. Bonus! But if zippers are no problem and you want something a little more sturdy, these Four Peas Toddler Backpacks are ideal.
They say Niagara Falls is the 8th wonder of the world but I would argue that it’s my son’s backpack after a day at school. We’re talking a few books, folders, loose papers, a few Lego guys to play with on the bus, and of course pieces of priceless art like life cycles of a butterfly, macaroni necklaces and popsicle stick art. (I know these are going to be worth something on eBay one day.)
So, your child’s school backpack needs to be big enough and durable enough to hold all that and a bag of chips. If your child takes lunch to school then you also need to fit a lunch bag and maybe a water bottle. Now, here’s the kicker. Does your child go directly to an afterschool activity or care location where they would need to add in sports gear, additional books, or toys? Most school-size backpacks are sufficient for an elementary school child’s needs but if you are using the backpack for extra activities or to travel with on the weekends, go for the largest size you can find.
In general, look for a school-size backpack that is 14″ – 17″ tall to make sure it will hold books, notebooks and binders.
MIDDLE OR HIGH SCHOOL
For YOU, it’s all about durability because they carry some pretty heavy books. Look for durable material and a large size bag. For THEM, it’s going to be all about the ‘tude. This bag will hold more than just books, it will hold a statement. Don’t be surprised to find their bag covered in hanging doodads or covered with pins and patches. Your child will want to express him or herself so let them go for it.
There are a variety of styles for older kids; standard backpacks or messenger bags are popular, so have fun with your tween or teen picking out what they feel comfortable carrying- because they’re not just carrying a bag, but rather their heart on their sleeve, I mean back.
If you want the backpack to last a few years, look for tough material. Not only to take abuse but to stand up to a hazmat-type cleaning. Make sure it is machine washable or easily surface cleaned. With my kids, we need to empty the bag and wash it every 2 months. The bags get skanky with food, left over glue, and various other substances that I can’t even identify! Remember, you only want one living thing attached to your kid’s backpack – your kid.
LAST NOTES ABOUT DESIGN
When your kids are younger, backpacks make a great gift. You or the gift giver can choose a cute, hip, or even plain design and your child will be thrilled. Once your kids gets ready for school, just try and get them to like the same design you do. I dare you! Avoid the arguments and let them pick.
Also, when your kids are younger they are going to gravitate towards the character designed backpacks – Spiderman, Dora, SpongeBob, Princesses, etc. However, these “fad” backpacks will probably only last you one year because your child will move on from that character quickly. “Oh Mom, Dora is so yesterday.” So, if you are going to buy a character backpack, don’t obsess over the quality and durability factors. And don’t pay too much for it because most likely it will go in the donation pile and be going to school with some other child.
Do you want to embroider the child’s name on the bag? If so, look for a design that has an open space on the front so you can add the name.
Is your toddler starting preschool in the fall? This is such an exciting time for them! They’ll meet new friends, learn the alphabet, work on fun art projects, and get exposed to new books, toys, and rules of behavior. They will also get comfortable to being away from Mom and Dad, if they haven’t already. Get your child ready for this new, fun experience with these 5 essential items.
1. Toddler-Sized Backpack
You’ll need to carry some items to preschool every day so a backpack that is sized just right for your toddler is a must. Look for a backpack that is lightweight, not too big, easy to open and close, and machine washable. In general, the ideal size for a toddler is about 12 or 13 inches tall. You want it big enough to hold a blanket, a favorite toy, and maybe a change of clothes. Look for adjustable straps too so they can continue to use it as they grow. You should be able to get at least 2 years out of your backpack. If that’s the case, steer clear of cartoon characters on the backpack. Kids change their favorites so quickly.
You’ll want to get your child’s name on the backpack somewhere so it doesn’t get mistakenly picked up by another child. You can get their name embroidered on the outside of the bag which kids love. Or if that makes you nervous that a stranger could see your child’s name, use their initials or just put a label inside the backpack. Read my post How to Buy the Perfect Kids Backpack for more considerations.
My whole family was lucky enough to be invited to the press event and get free tickets for “Cirque Shanghai Extreme” at the Navy Pier Skyline Stage in Chicago last week. The show was “extremely” awesome. I knew we would enjoy the show but I was surprised at how much everyone in the family really enjoyed it. Even my sometimes jaded 11-year-old son thought it was totally cool. Read below for details to win 4 Free Tickets to Cirque Shanghai Extreme from OntheGoChicago.com or get a discount code for tickets.
The show is thrilling. From the opening act when the performers “zip line” onto the stage followed by Chinese dragon dancers coming down the aisles, your kids will be mesmerized by the sounds, colors, and cool feats of the performers. The acts feature juggling, acrobatics, dance, contortionists, and MOTORCYCLES.
My daughter’s favorite act was the Barrel Contortion Act. Three girl performers are dressed like candy and they squirm and contort their way into and out of these three tiny barrels with ease.
My son on the other hand was all about the Motorcycle cage at the end of the show. It’s AMAZING how they can get 4 motorcycles racing around the inside of a metal cage on stage.
The show is only 75 minutes long so don’t be afraid to take toddlers to the show. The little ones we saw in the audience didn’t move or fidget once through the show. You can take in the rest of Navy Pier’s attractions before or after the show, depending on your kids’ bedtime.
A note of caution – the Skyline Stage at Navy Pier is an open air theater. Even though it is hot out, if the wind picks up off the lake, your kids might get cold. My daughter was freezing by the end of the show and we didn’t have a jacket with us.
If you have a wide age range of kids in your family or guests in from out of town, this is the show for you. Toddlers, teens, and adults alike will be amazed.
My friend Cindy over at OntheGoChicago.com has 4 free tickets to Cirque Shanghai Extreme but you need to enter today!
Ticket Info: Tickets for kids ages 3 – 12 years old are only $15 and you can Cirque Shanghai has offered our readers a special discount offer! Use code KIDS for $25 Adult Gold Circle tickets for Wed-Fri performances for July and August. Tickets now on sale through ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000
Place: Navy Pier Open-Air Skyline Stage, 600 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL
Do you have to travel a lot for work? Have you taken a romantic vacation without the kids? In our house, we’ve done both. My husband and I do have to travel for work every now and then. We also just returned from an AWESOME trip to France where the kids stayed home. We were celebrating my parents’ 45th anniversary and our 15th! We miss the kids when we travel but we’ve started to do some funny things while we’re gone that the kids look forward to now.
In the article I talk about taking one of your kids toys with you on your trips and taking funny photos of their toys traveling. Here are some that we took in France. Our daughter gave us a ferret and our son gave us a Roman Action Figure.
Also, we’ve started a funny face contest when we Skype now. While we were in France we were able to video call home every day and talk to the kids. It’s so easy to stay connected and find out about their day when you can see their faces on the computer screen. Having video capability is awesome because we could show our kids the view out of our hotel room in Paris and walk around the rooms of the Chateau in Provence so the kids could see where we were staying. Technology is AMAZING when it seems like you are in the room together. Skype gets my vote for one of the coolest inventions of our century!
I hope these tips make your work travel a little less stressful and easier to bear for you both you and the kids.
Have you taken a vacation without your kids? How did you stay in touch?
Working from home can be tough. Every summer I find myself facing the same predicament: how can I keep the kids busy so I can get work done? I work from home full-time and while my job is very flexible, I do have project deadlines, meetings, and posts to write. Whether you work from home full time, were lucky enough to arrange to work from home more in the summer time, or just have a huge home project to complete, you’ll need to keep the kids occupied. However, with the economy still down, many families are opting to keep their kids home from summer camp to avoid the extra expense. With a few weeks of summer behind us now, I’ve learned a few tips on how to get work done, no matter how old your kids are. Read my post at Patch.com on Keeping Your Kids Amused So You Can Work From Home.
What do you do to keep your kids busy and happy while you work from home this summer?
There was a great article in the Huffington Post last week by Lori Day about Raising Wholesome Children in Today’s Culture, which shares 10 tips for parents to take control of what messages their kids receive today about sex, violence or tolerance.
She mentions books or resources that promote reading to children, getting kids reacquainted with the outdoors, and raising health-conscious daughters. I was thrilled to see that she mentioned the Go!Go! Sports Girl Dolls that we sell in her article. Designed by fellow Mom Jodi Norgaard, we love how these dolls encourage girls to be active and are a wholesome alternative to the “sexed-up” dolls you see in the stores now. I don’t know about you but I would much rather have my daughter grow up idolizing Mia Hamm than Britney Spears. These dolls have won several toy industry awards and Jodi notes: “I measure real girls and make the dolls’ proportions accurate.” Nice! To read more, check out the post I wrote about Girls, Get Your Sports On featuring Jodi Norgaard.
TREAT FOR YOU: To help you grab one of these dolls for your little girl or granddaughter, through June 30th, take 20% OFF any of the Go! Go! Sports Girl Dolls we sell at ChocolateCakeClub.com. We’ve got the Soccer, Gymnastics, Ballet, and Swimming dolls available. Use coupon code GOGO20.
Not only will you feel great that you are promoting a healthy lifestyle for your daughter, she’ll love taking her new doll friend with her to sports practice and lessons.
How do you encourage your daughters to be more active and care about their health and bodies?
My kids are bouncing off the walls. They can’t wait for the last day of school tomorrow. Even though I don’t get the summer off, I do look forward to our annual family tradition of celebrating the end of the school year. Since they are so excited, I figure why not join in on the enthusiasm and make it a family tradition to do something fun as a family to mark the beginning of summer break?
Parents, if you can, take the afternoon off of work or dedicate a day for pure fun. Here are some ideas to inspire your celebration:
1. Hit the pool! Let the splashing begin. Head on over to your local pool and start working on that gorgeous tan while splashing around with the kids.
2. Neighborhood Fire Pit, Anyone? Put a fire pit out on the driveway and invite the neighborhood families over to celebrate together. Share your summer vacation plans, discuss the highlights of the past school year, talk about starting a gourmet club or how mosquitoes are the plague of man’s existence. You know, whatever makes you happy.
3. Run Around. It’s summer, so go outside. Be active and enjoy the outdoors. Go to the local forest preserve and play games, hit your favorite theme park, go for a long bike ride in another part of town, or go horseback riding if it’s available near you.
4. Go see a movie during the day. If your outdoor activities get rained out or you just want to enjoy extreme air conditioning, take advantage of that early bird, weekday discount to see the latest family flick. It will be a rare pleasure for the kids to see a movie during the day, because SCHOOL IS OUT!
5. Cook your kid’s favorite meal. Ask your kids what they want as a celebratory meal and have fun making it together.
Here are some other great ideas from around the Mom blogs for celebrating the last day of school.
Tipjunkie.com recently ran a post with 14 Unique Ways to Say Thank You. At the end of the school year, there are quite a few people that need to be thanked by our family – bus driver, school nurse, neighbors who always help watch the kids when needed, etc. So, it’s nice to find some different ways to say thank you than a box of candy or just a card. Plus, by making something special, you’re really saying “Your help meant so much to me that I wanted to Thank You with something a little extra.”
I hope these ideas help inspire you. I’d love to get one of these from someone.
School is almost out so the question on every Mom’s mind is “What do we get for the kids’ teachers?” Every year I try to be creative and come up with something unique but most years I end up giving them what they say they really need. I am fortunate enough to have 6 teachers living in my neighborhood so I asked them what they like to get at the end of the year from their students. Here were the top answers, hands down.
1. Book Gift Cards – many teachers have to buy their own books for the classroom so gift cards help to cover that expense for them.
2. Coffee Gift Cards – We’re in a room with 28 loud children every day, need we say more?
3. Target Gift Cards – Hey, many teachers are Moms, too. (This applies for movie ticket certificates, restaurant certificates, and anything that you would appreciate as a gift.)
4. Anything Homemade by the student, especially if they had a nice bond throughout the school year. Notes, photos collages, or a written story were appreciated.
Want some more ideas? Here are some additional gift ideas I’ve come up with and found on various Mom sites.
5. The Mother Huddle blog had some ideas that were nice and most importantly easy to do. I really liked the Joyful Hands soap idea.
6. The Skip to My Lou blog had some great simple ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week that would also work as nice year end gifts. I like the Gift Certificate for a Massage idea.
7. If you have an artist at home, frame one of their masterpieces. My daughter’s teacher is retiring at the end of year so she is going to draw a picture of the teacher’s classroom so she’ll remember it.
8. How about a plant? They last longer than flowers and can be used to lighten up the classroom next year.
9. A box of pretty Thank You Notes. The teachers may want to send a thank you to all of the students for their year end gifts so why not make it easier for them to do so. If you don’t want to make your own, Sincerely Yours by Tracy has some beautiful, unique Thank You Notes and Teacher Cards.
10. A movie night package. Grab a recently released DVD, popcorn and some candy so your teacher can have a fun night at home with her or his family.
Care to add to the list? We’d love to hear more ideas!
It’s so hard to believe but the end of the school year is just weeks away. My kids had some really good teachers this year so I started looking for some easy but creative gift ideas that we could make together to show our appreciation. Here were my favorite ideas:
School is almost out and Summer Camp season is upon us. Are you ready? At our house, we are in full Summer Camp preparation mode. We’re signing up for day camps, checking to see what our neighborhood friends are doing during summer vacation, and lining up babysitters to cover for when I need to go to work meetings.
We’re also evaluating our Summer Camp Gear from last year to make sure we have everything ready to go on Day 1. Here’s the checklist I created for myself. I hope it helps you get organized, as well.
Send in all medical forms for camp
Order any medication refills, especially epi-pens, so the counselors can administer care to your child at camp
Check to see if bathing suits still fit
Check to see if pool towel has holes in it. If yes, get a new one
Purchase sun screen and bug spray (don’t use old one under the sink – it’s probably not effective anymore)
Make sure school backpack is holding up and can carry camp gear easily. If too small, buy a duffle bag.
Definitely get 2 stainless water bottles ready and waiting (2 because you are going to lose 1 within the first week or two of camp or you won’t get around to washing it one night)
Double check your kids’ sneakers. Many camps don’t let kids wear flip flops or sandals.
Write your child’s name on everything!
Stock up on trading cards or little games that the kids can take to camp to play with their new friends (My kids used to love trading Pokemon cards at camp, then it was little erasers. We’ll see what’s hot this year.)
If your kids are old enough to go to overnight camp, they might need the following:
There are so many great posts out there about how your family can do some simple things to Go Green for Earth Day … and every day frankly. I like this one from Savvy Sassy Moms. However, I wanted to write a post about how you can have FUN Going Green.
1. Kill the Vampires. Play a game and have the kids go room to room looking for any appliances that are plugged in and running but aren’t being used. That includes unplugging your cell phone when it is fully charged. In my office for example, we had a scanner, three printers, and three computers plugged in. These appliances were still sucking electricity even though they were in sleep mode. Turn them off! Kill the vampires.
2. This Friday Night have a Family No Electricity Night. Light a fire in the fireplace, add some candles, and then play board games by candlelight. The kids will think it is so cool. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together talking and playing games without all of the distractions. In today’s uber, fast-paced world, unplugging seems like a great way to relax and bond while also conserving energy.
3. Bike Ride to Dinner. Plan on going out for dinner this weekend? Why not pick a restaurant that can be part of family bike ride. Save gas and burn off that dessert. Bonus!
4. Walk to your local Farmers Market. If you live in the Midwest, it seems like Farmers Market Season will never come. However, for many other parts of the country take the kids to the Farmers Market and support your local farmers. The benefits? Organic food, no chemical fertilizers to harm the environment or you, less gas used for distribution, and very little packaging to clutter up our landfills. Here are some ideas on Games and Activities to do with the kids at the Farmers Market.
5. Spend an evening at your Local Library. Libraries are the original reuse and recycle centers! Save the trees (truffula or others) – don’t buy new books when you can get them from the library. Everyone in my family loves to read so we enjoy going to the library and spending some time alone and together discovering favorite books or new authors. We can sit on the comfy chairs in the library and read to the kids. Read The Lorax. This way the lights are all off at our house, too.
If you turn your Go Green efforts into FAMILY FUN, they’ll probably get done more often and become a habit for your family. After you have done all of these activities, have your kids write and send a letter to The Lorax and let him know that your family cares and is doing its part. Here are some additional tips on what families can do to protect the environment.
“Unless someone like you CARES a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Any other ideas on how your family can have fun AND protect the environment?
We’re celebrating Earth Day this week so we’ll be sharing ideas on how to get the kids involved in respecting and preserving our planet, as well as simple things we can do as families to protect our environment.
Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
It’s National Volunteer Week so I wanted to share some ideas on helping your kids develop an attitude for gratitude with ideas and resources on projects the family can do together to help others. Check out the article I wrote for Patch.com on How To Teach Your Kids the Importance of Giving Back. There are some good ideas and resources for helping protect our environment, perfect for Earth Day next week.
Also, for National Volunteer Week take the time to thank the people who volunteer in your community or in your organization. We were in the hospital for 2 days with my daughter and I just want to give a big THANK YOU to all of the wonderful and friendly people who volunteer in the pediatric wards. My family thanks you for your kindness and help!
How does your family volunteer? At what age can you get the kids involved?
Not every girl wants to be a princess. Thank goodness! The world would be pretty boring with that many princesses. So we love when we find a toy that appeals to girls with other interests. Check out these sports-themed dolls that help girls celebrate their athletic interests, encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle, as well as make great companions to take to practice. We just started selling these Go! Go! Sports Girls Dolls at ChocolateCakeClub.com because we think the Dolls are so fun and we really like the Mompreneur behind the company, Jodi Norgaard.
The Go! Go! Sports Dolls are designed to support and encourage girls to play sports and lead an active lifestyle. The idea is to teach girls it is cool to be strong and active—not just another pretty face. (As a woman in her 40′s who still can’t put on make-up properly, I love that message!) The dolls’ bodies are not overly mature so there is no confusing sexuality associated with the doll – you know, grow up fast and dress like a 20-year-old. The bodies are soft so they are easy to hug!
Now that the weather is getting warmer – need new clothes? Don’t miss this great deal to stock up on a new wardrobe and help find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes – here’s a coupon to save 30% on your entire purchase this weekend at all Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores. Best part – 5% goes to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). My daughter thanks you for helping find a cure and you’ll love your new Spring clothes.
We have some exciting news today. Check out our new look. We have revamped the ChocolateCakeMoments.com site to be way more user-friendly. While we are still working out some of the bugs and adding things back to the site, we really wanted to show it off. What changed you ask?
1. To make sure you don’t miss any of our simple and creative family fun ideas, we are launching a monthly e-newsletter highlighting some of the month’s best posts. Don’t miss out and sign up in the box on the right.
2. We added a search function to the site to make it easier to find content on what matters to you. Looking for Spring Break Staycation ideas? Type in Staycation. Want tips for hosting a great Family Game Night? Go ahead and search. (more…)
Did anyone watch the Grammy’s last night? I usually don’t, but last night I had it on while I was folding laundry and I caught Cee Lo Green performing his song with the Muppets. While I loved the theatricality of the whole performance, (I’m a sucker for silliness, creativity, and muppets) it made me nostalgic for Elton John performing Crocodile Rock on the Muppet Show, my favorite kids show of all time.
Don’t these seem similar?
Since you can’t let the kids watch the Cee Lo Green clip with the swearing, go grab a copy of the Muppet Show Season 2 on DVD and show your kids the Elton John version. (As much as I liked Cee Lo’s muppet drummer, Animal still holds my heart.)
This Valentine’s Day why not tell your child you love them … over and over again? I love this adorable Valentine’s Day gift, the Mimicking Monkey Sleep Soother by Cloud b which helps your child fall asleep by playing soft music. But to put the “Ultimate” in Ultimate Kids Valentine’s Day Gift, you can record a voice message as well. So go ahead and sing or whisper “I Love You” and the monkey will repeat as many times as your child likes. Your child or grandchild will love listening to Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s or Grandpa’s voice.
Plus, the Mimicking Monkey is so FLUFFY and cute, I want one! The minute I saw this product, we had to sell it.
This is also a perfect gift to give your child to stay connected when you have to travel for work. Record a message saying “Good Night” or “I Love You” and your child will still fall asleep to the sound of your voice. It’s also a great way to stay connected to your grandchild if you live in another city or state. Need I say more?
This weekend only to help spread the love, save 20% OFF of the Mimicking Monkey Sleep Soother at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. No coupon needed but hurry and order before midnight, Sunday, Feb. 13th!
I am enjoying another Snow Day with my kids today after Sno-Madeggon, the Mother-of-All-Snowstorms, rolled through the Midwest. The wind, the thundersnow, and the amount of flakes was incredible to experience. What’s great though is that once the storm ended yesterday, the sun came out and it was the MOST PERFECT SNOW DAY to head outside and have fun.
My kids have been having a blast making snow forts and jumping on the trampoline once we cleared off the snow.
Looking for a place to go with the family that offers clean, family entertainment that actually makes you laugh? Go see the Harlem Globetrotters!
My family was lucky enough to get free tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters when they came to Chicago a few weeks ago, courtesy of PTPA Media. (Thanks, PTPA.) My husband and I were looking forward to it since we loved the Globetrotters when we were kids. Hey, they were big stuff back then. They had their own Variety Show, they were on TV all the time, and they were on Scooby Doo, for Pete’s Sake. (That is one of my dreams – to be on an episode of Scooby Doo. That, and to be Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl Parade.) But I digress!
To read my review of the Harlem Globetrotters and why I think you should take your family, head on over to the Parent Tested Parent Approved Blog.Spoiler Alert – I got a hug from Curly Neal! Woo Hoo!
If you buy tickets online from the Globetrotters website, USE THE CODE “PTPA” TO RECEIVE A DISCOUNT ON TICKETS!
We just got in the most adorable gift for babies and toddlers. The Mimicking Monkey Sleep Soother by Cloud b takes traditional sleep soothers to a whole new level. Not only does the soft, adorable monkey play soothing sounds to help your child sleep but you can record your voice on it! Go ahead and sing a lullabye or whisper a message to help your kids feel safe and secure so they can sleep. How cool is that!!! It’s perfect for parents traveling for work or long-distance grandparents to “talk” to the little ones while they are absent. I wish I had invented this!
As they get older, they’ll have fun “monkeying around” recording their own weird messages and sounds on the Monkey. Fun!
My kids were positively gloom and doom this morning when they had to go back to school. (Why does school start so early? Why do I even have to go to school? Ninjas don’t need to learn math. Why don’t you ever buy me any decent pants?) Insert your kids’ favorite whining here.
Now I like a good wine, I mean whine, when it’s me doing the whining. I certainly don’t want to condone the kids’ whiny behavior, but I was thinking of doing something special for the kids this evening to “celebrate” or “ease the pain” of going back to school after the Holiday Break. My plan? Chocolate Fondue! What better way to create a Chocolate Cake Moment than with hot, gooey chocolate?
You can certainly surprise the kids with this treat after school today or maybe on Friday after school to celebrate them getting back into the swing of homework.
Kirchner’s Chocolate Fondue
1 lb. of your favorite milk chocolate bar (we like Ghirardellis)
4 oz. dark chocolate bar
3/4 cup heavy cream (you can use half and half for less calories)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Break the chocolate bars into pieces and place in your fondue, hot pot, or double boiler. Keep on a low setting. (If you don’t have any of those, just use a regular pot on very low setting and make sure you keep stirring.) Add cream and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. (If you are melting this on a stove top, watch the heat. Don’t walk away or the chocolate will boil and be ruined.) Stir in the vanilla right before serving. Then dip away!
Dipping Suggestions(In order of our kids preference):
Salted pretzel sticks
Cubed pound cake
Angel food cake
Hazelnut or almond biscotti (more for the adults)
Have fun!What do you do to ease the pain of going back to school for your kids?
There is nothing more fun than a tea party! Dressing up, pouring “tea”, serving cookies, and inviting your favorite friends – real or imaginary – is one of childhood’s greatest pleasures. At least, I think so! Even as an adult one of my favorite things to do is have tea with my BFFs.
If you know a little girl who would love to host her own tea party, then she needs a tea set. There are so many options and sometimes it’s hard to choose the right tea set for a child.
Tea sets come in a variety of materials, sizes and shapes. Porcelain, ceramic, tin, and plastic are the most common. While the first two are breakable, they are also more “dainty” or feminine in design which appeals to a lot of little girls. They are also more like “grown-up” tea sets and little girls definitely want their pretend play to be as realistic as possible. Here are some considerations to hopefully make it easier for you to choose the perfect set.
Toy vs. Heirloom
Here’s my take on this debate. I think buying a beautiful tea set that your daughter or granddaughter can keep as an heirloom to remind them of you is wonderful. However, if the child is young, don’t give it to them until they are older. Or, have Mom or Grandma keep the tea set and host special tea parties for the child when they are younger and then give them the set when they are older. It will be so much more special if they remember using it with you once they get it as their very own.
Giving a young girl a beautiful, expensive tea set that she can’t touch or play with is cruel. She either won’t be allowed to touch it, which then in their eyes they are denied something fun or they will play with it anyway and feel terrible if it does break. Make a tea set gift fun for them! It is the experience of having tea with you or their friends, that they will remember.
The Age Appropriate Myth
First, of all, how old is your tea party cutie? In general, the younger the child, the more durable the tea set should be. Younger kids may not be as dexterous and need a larger tea cup. Even though they have little fingers, it might be harder for them to grab tiny cups.
Most toys give an age appropriate guideline on the box. Keep in mind this is a guide. The manufacturer is afraid you are going to break it and accuse them of not warning you, so they err on the cautious side. You are going to have to gauge whether your daughter or granddaughter can handle a breakable tea set. My son is almost 11 years old but I cringe any time he goes near glass. After all, he is officially the sworn enemy to all snow globes. If he even looks at one, it breaks. My daughter on the other hand has had a ceramic and a porcelain tea set since she was 3 years old and hasn’t chipped or broken a cup yet. She treats her tea set like gold and is dexterous enough to handle it carefully.
So look at the age guidelines on the tea sets, which are usually set for a worst case scenario and make a judgment call on whether she can handle a more fragile set. What’s the worst case scenario? She breaks a cup and you need to buy a new one. I’d rather see my kids playing and enjoying their tea set than worrying about breaking it. If you find a tea set you love and are worried it might get broken, buy 2 sets. That way you always have a back-up and no one has to worry.
Size Does Matter
Tea sets come in different sizes. There are mini tea sets which really are more collectible items or doll-size so your dolls can pretend to have tea. Your child will not be able to drink out of these. We sell this Mini Crown Tea Set which is perfect for a doll tea party. If you are buying the tea set online, it should say the size in the product description. If not, don’t hesitate to email or call, to get a better sense of the size of the tea set.
Who’s invited to the party? Believe it or not, it’s hard to find kids’ porcelain tea sets that have 4 cups. Most only have 2. We only carry one porcelain set that has 4 cups. Our plastic and tin tea sets do include 4 cups so you might want to look at tea sets in other materials, if you need more than 2 cups.
You can always buy mismatched porcelain tea cups at estate sales, flea markets, or second hand stores to add more cups to your set. I know I needed to invite ALL of my stuffed animals to the tea party or they would get upset.
Here’s the million dollar question. Is your child going to drink out of the tea set? When your child is younger, they have no problem pretending. They don’t need liquid in the cup to have a good time. When your child hits 5 years old or older, they might want to be a little more “grown-up” and serve the tea at their party, drinking water, ginger ale, root beer, or juice out of the tea cups. It’s as much fun to pour as it is to drink. If that is the case, you need to make sure that the tea set is food safe, FDA-approved, and water resistant. If the set is plastic, make sure it meets all BPA, phthalate, and lead safety standards. Basically, it needs to be non-toxic. While a tin tea set may be non-toxic, once you add liquid to it some tea sets start to leak or rust.
If she wants to drink out of the tea set, look for a cup size that is at least 2” in diameter. You won’t get a lot of liquid in these cups, about 2 ounces, but it’s enough. The porcelain tea sets we sell at Chocolate Cake Club, like our Daisy Tea Set, fit this bill.
I hope these considerations have helped you to choose the perfect kids tea set for your little girl’s first or next tea party. We’ll be adding a post on How to Host the Perfect Tea Party next week so come back for tips on how to make your kids’ tea parties even more fun and unique.
Still need some inspiration for Wow! gifts for your kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews? We created a PDF version of the ChocolateCakeClub.com’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide to make it easier for you to read at your leisure. Download it, print it and even show it to your kids to see what gets them excited.
If you have any questions, please send us an email at email@example.com or give us a shout at 847-963-1805. The Chocolate Cake Club is our sister company and when you shop there, it helps support our family fun ideas and blog content here. Thank you!
Buying the most impactful Holiday gift for your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews can be daunting. Do they have that toy already? What is age appropriate? Don’t let the stress of gift-buying ruin the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you!
We want to help make your gift buying easier, so we created our ChocolateCakeClub.com 2010 Holiday Gift Guide with our picks for the most unique, highest-quality gifts for kids that you won’t find in Target or Walmart. We divided the Holiday Gift Guide by age and gender to make it easy for you to find the perfect Wow! gift.
Whether its kid’s cooking sets, family-fun games, arts and crafts kits, toys, or personalized gifts you’re looking for, our goal is to help you find really unique, cool kid’s gifts that will thrill the children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews on your list.
This video highlights 10 of the Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids from our Holiday Gift Guide. All of these gift ideas are available at our sister site, www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. Your gift purchases help us to continue to bring you our great ideas for Family Fun on this blog site.
Here’s a list with links to the Top 10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Kids from the video:
We were so saddened to hear that Ron Santo passed away this morning. For those of you in Chicago, he was the perfect Cubs announcer. Most importantly to us, he was the perfect spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). He created a tremendous amount of awareness for this disease that has touched our household and we appreciate how active he was in the community here.
Speaking of JDRF, my daughter and I want to give a big thank you to everyone who purchased a kids gift from the ChocolateCakeClub.com in November!!!! November was National Diabetes Awareness Month and we announced at the beginning of the month that we would donate a portion of all November sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We sent our check out today! Thank you all for helping us make this donation.
Even if you didn’t purchase from us, we’d love it if you helped support finding a cure for Type 1 juvenile diabetes and make a donation at the JDRF site.
It’s Cyber Monday and we have some unprecedented deals for you! We’ve taken 25% off of some of our top selling gifts for babies, kids, and even Moms. Hop on over to ChocolateCakeClub.com to find some great gift ideas on sale or find inspiration for the perfect gift for your little loved one in our Holiday Gift Guide. We promise we’ll make you look like a Gift-Buying Superstar!
We are wrapping up our posts on top Holiday gift ideas for kids from the ChocolateCakeClub.com 2010 Holiday Gift Guide. Today, you’ll see our favorite unique gifts for girls 7 years old and up. Click on the link to our Holiday Gift Guide to see all of our top picks for kids divided by age and gender to make shopping a little easier.
The Playful Chef Kids Cooking Kits will help you tap into your kids’ eagerness to help in the kitchen. These kids cooking kits provide the nutritional know-how, kid-sized cooking tools, and fun recipes you’ll need to get your little one cooking! We can’t think of a better Chocolate Cake Moment than to have fun in the kitchen making Chocolate Mountain Lava Cakes (recipe included in kit.)
House of Fashion Design Studio
Does your little girl dream of appearing on Project Runway. Get her fashion design career off to a head start with this House of Fashion Design Studio. Create entire collections using a custom light tablet and cling-type wardrobe pieces. Add color, pattern, texture and embellishment for a look all your own. Let your creative senses run wild with this ultimate arts & craft kit.
Spa Pedicure and Slipper Set It’s Girl Time!!! This new Spa Pedicure and Slipper Decorating Kit is so much fun for your pampered girly-girl. She can pamper her feet with the pedicure set then while her toes are drying, decorate the slippers that will showcase the artfully beautiful toes. This is a great activity for a sleepover or a lazy Christmas morning! See our other Craft Kits here.
Believe it or not, this is a science kit! Your girls can pamper themselves while they learn the science behind a dozen different spa product recipes. The kit will teach girls how to create their very own unique beauty products and spa treatments out of household natural materials and custom-tooled components. Unleash some serious fun while creating Glitter Gel, Berry Lip Balm, or an Avocado Face Mask. Great for a slumber party!
Encourage her creative side and teach her to sew – a lifelong skill. Everything she needs to start sewing is all in this My First Sewing Kit. The kit includes cool pre-cut patterns for quick and easy projects! Included are 8 colors of embroidery floss, shapes to make felt animals and a notebook cover, stuffing, fabric, ric rac, needles, scissors, measuring tape, straight pins, thimble, pin cushion, buttons and a pom-pom strip all in the cute and colorful carrying case.
Cap It Off Jewelry Kit
Here’s a new twist to making jewelry. The Cap It Off Jewelry Craft Kit is a fun new way to make bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Decorate the bottle caps with with stickers, beads, or satin any way you want. Create your unique set of jewelry for a friend or just for yourself.
The Four Peas Spunky Stripe Messenger Bag is THE hip accessory. Flaunt a fun, girly attitude with this generously sized messenger bag that will help your kids tote their school stuff or important travel items. Your kid will love the bag for its style, Moms will love it for the sturdy construction.
The age old game of truth or dare is ready for a new generation. The Truth or Dare Box of Questions is a great way to get your slumber party started! Spin the miniature spinner to reveal what your question is going to be: Truth, Dare, or Double Dare. There are 83 cards to pick from to ensure a whole lot of laughs and revealing of secrets!