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We are getting into the Halloween spirit around here. After a tough September with Madison’s appendix surgery, we are all looking forward to the simple joy of enjoying fall and Halloween this month. One of the first signs of Halloween around here are the little faces I add to the fruit for the kids lunch box. It started with clementines, but often I’ll write on banana peels too.

Cute and spooky halloween pumpkins for lunch or snack time

For early readers, I love adding in simple words like Boo, Love, and Happy. It’s a nice way to engage the kids in some conversation about lunch time and if they liked their little surprise and find out who sat next to them and if they showed their friends. One mom got her daughter to start eating clementines after seeing a little Kitty clementine in Madison’s lunch box.

I often use a Sharpie for writing notes and spooky faces, all on skin that will be removed. Another option is to get a Food Writer Marker that is safe to use on more surfaces, like an apple peel. In the spirit of Halloween, I also just picked up some of these cute Candy Eyeballs that are sure to be a silly addition to the kids lunchbox or snack time.

Add fun words to the kids lunchbox

I hope your little one enjoys some pumpkin clementines this season!

 

Back to school Giveaway from Mabels Labels

If you have kids in daycare, preschool and beyond, you know how important it is to label EVERYTHING with their name on it. Even if you are just bringing in your kids to the daycare at the gym you need to label everything, like their shoes. {ask me why I know some time…} We have used Mabel’s Labels since Madison was in daycare and I have passed along clothes to friend’s babies with her name labels still attached. This year you too can get organized for back to school with the Ultimate Back to School combo pack of labels.

Shark Mabels Labels

JJ was the lucky winner of getting to pick out new labels this year. He was excited about the shark logo. I got started using those cute shoe tags to label his new back to school sneakers. His best buddy (or his Mom) picked out the same sneakers as JJ so having a label makes life a little easier.

Don’t forget to label lunch supplies too– lunch boxes, water bottles, reusable bags and an ice pack.

Label those ice packs for the lunch box

Note~ This is our favorite ice pack for the kids lunch. It’s “sweat-free” so it makes clean up at the end of the day a lot neater.

There’s still time to order your favorite set of labels for back to school from Mabel’s Labels. Got big kids? There is a Stylish Scholars combo that may interest them. Are you a blogger? I have seen lots of people use their Skinny labels on their iPhone case, chargers, and water bottles when they are at a blog conference. Just because you are a grown up it doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun!

Please enter below in the Rafflecopter. You will be able to pick the Ultimate Back to School combo package or the Stylish Scholars combo. Entries will close this Saturday at midnight~~ enter soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure~ JJ got a new package of Mabel’s Labels to help facilitate writing this post. All opinions shared here are my own. Some links included are Amazon affiliate links. 

Rock the Lunchbox. #schoollunch #backtoschool

Does your idea of a healthy lunch differ from one your kids dream about? Is there some way to get you both on the same page? As we continue to talk about school lunches this week, today I’m sharing an awesome giveaway and some resources on how to make your kid’s lunchbox rock.

I asked Madison to draw her favorite lunch. She struggled because she said she “likes everything.” If only that was true. So I asked what she would like for her first day of kindergarten. Can you tell what it is?

Rock the Lunchbox Dream Lunch

It’s a sandwich, with Nutella AND Fluff. At least we could have the conversation now that this would not be her lunch on the first day of school. On the side, she choose fresh pineapple. Now that I will happily pack in her lunchbox.

Then I took another approach and asked the kids to pack a lunch with the Laptop Lunchbox. I was pretty excited when they packed nearly all fruit into the box. There is something so compelling about filling up the little bento box containers with brightly colored fruits and veggies. The kids just naturally tapped into the rainbow.  We did talk about what’s missing-the protein. We could add in some Stonyfield Kids yogurt squeeze tubes or Organic Valley string cheese.

Kids fruity lunch in laptop lunchbox

The RocktheLunchBox website is filled with tons of ideas to pack for lunch. They are made by real moms and can help inspire packing lunches this year. I also like getting ideas via Instagram and you can find them @rockthelunchbox. {I also share a a few other lunch packing resources in this post.}

Ready for the Giveaway! One lucky reader will win:

Three Free Lunchbox Containers – get creative on how to pack!

Six Free Product Coupons – get creative on what to pack!

  • o   Annie’s Homegrown
  • o   Applegate Organic & Natural Meats
  • o   Honest Kids
  • o   Organic Valley
  • o   Rudi’s Organic Bakery
  • o   Stonyfield YoKids Yogurt

Plus 1 Set of Free Crayola Crayons – get the kids involved drawing their dream lunch!

Please enter via the Rafflecopter below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure~ I received the same giveaway set to facilitate this post. All opinions shared here are my own. Now go Rock the Lunchbox! Grab coupons from these popular brands to help build a better lunchbox™: Annie’s, Rudi’s Organic, Applegate, Organic Valley, and Honest Kids at www.rockthelunchbox.com

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sharpie, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia  #StaplesBTS http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Back to School Organizing with Sharpies

It’s nearly back to school season! Don’t you just love the rush of getting the kids all ready for school and buying beautiful new notebooks, markers and lunch boxes? I’m a sucker for pretty notebooks and colorful markers. I still remember how excited I was to go back to school shopping for all the items on our supply list when I was younger, back in my Trapper Keeper days.  While my excitement for back to school now focuses on my kids, it’s also about getting our family back into a routine.

Yummy Sharpie Colors. I just can't get enough!

As I started looking at the back to school deals at Staples, the fashion assortment of Sharpies caught my eye. All those colors…all that color coding I can do. Yes, even I who loves all things digital, has paper calendars and check lists. I read an article last year that said we remember more of what we write down on paper than we do after keying it into a computer (or phone.) The brain registers these two actions differently, and it’s handwriting that has the staying power. After reading this, I felt better about sticking with paper and pen for my weekly agenda. It has made a difference keeping track of my schedule as I write out the week ahead, along with my menu plan, every Sunday.

Free Printable Weekly Calendar

September has always felt like a fresh start to me, even if it’s not really a “new year.” Today I wanted to share with you a fun, FREE, printable calendar that you can use each week to stay organized. There are three ways you could use this to help keep everyone on the same page in your home.

Cute weekly calendar printable

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE WEEKLY CALENDAR PRINTABLE

(this is a file in Google Drive, open the link then go to File–>Print)

1. Print out the calendar each week and write out your family’s schedule and color code with Sharpie markers. The Fine and Ultra Fine Sharpie packs are currently on sale at Staples through August 24th, while supplies last. I love all the colors in the fashion pack I bought. (I dug up my Nana’s old cranberry mold glass jar to hold them all for easy access. You can get the same effect with a wide mouth pint jar.) 

2. Print out the calendar once, color code your “master” schedule and then laminate it. You can then add in the weekly appointments that change using a dry erase marker. (Hint- I use the wet erase markers, which you can also find at Staples.)

3. Print out the calendar for each child and write out their weekly schedule with them. I know the young ones ask a hundred times a day when they are doing something and which day it is. Having their own calendar schedule is a great way to teach them the days of the week, and explain to them when their activities will be. Use the Sharpie colors to color code their schedule for non-readers. Red = school, blue = swimming and so on.

Sharpies from Staples for Back to School

What other ways can you use this calendar? Are you a back to school organizing junkie like me? Want to shopping at Staples together and see what deals we can find? 

 

Beat the Boredom. Tips for packing a healthy school lunch

As back to school season arrives, the discussion about school lunches is in full swing. How to get it done faster? What should we pack? Will they eat it? All of these questions can make it challenging to pack a healthy, kid-friendly lunch for your child. Today I want to share a couple of ideas to help make packing lunches a little easier, while inspiring your kids to make some healthy choices.

1. Tap into the Rainbow

Studies show that kids often eat more food if they are presented with more colors. Presentation really does matter when it comes to food. Do you need to get every color in? No, but try to get a mix of those blues, oranges, reds and white. Start with a goal of three colors and see if you can later add in one more.

2. Move Beyond the Paper Bag

The number of choices of reusable lunch bags is awesome. Once you narrow down your choice to one that is BPA and phthalate free, let your child pick the print. Including them in the process is the first step in getting them excited about sitting down for lunch.

3. Do the Little Finger Test

The big push towards bento boxes and small plastic storage containers allows for some beautiful lunch presentations. However, I have found some that are really hard for little fingers to open (even big fingers!) Let your kids test out new containers in the store or upon delivery to make sure they can easily manage at school. Independence is a key factor in creating a relaxed environment during your child’s lunch.

4. Introduce New Foods During “Non-Nag” Time

When our kids are away from their parents during lunch, most educators are not sitting with them telling the class what to eat. Kids are allowed the time and space to make their own choices. It can be a great time to introduce a new fruit or veggie, without pressuring the child to try it. Will it come home untouched? Yes, there is a very good chance that will happen. But try again and maybe they will surprise you. Or maybe they will eat it the first time and now you have a new lunch idea.

5. Add in a bit of Whimsy

Draw fun faces on oranges in the kids school lunch.

Another parent once said her daughter came home asking for a “kitty orange” after she saw Madison with one. The parent was so thankful as her daughter never ate oranges before!

I know some parents really dread making lunches, while others truly love it. If you are in the first camp, let those in the second inspire you. There are fun ways to add in a little surprise to your kids lunch, without losing your mind trying to pack it up while you are rushing in the morning. The bento box is a great first step in pulling off a fun presentation. It’s still the same lunch, but in a pretty container, you already check off on of your “colors” in the rainbow. My little guy loves pirates so I plan to include this pirate cake topper on occasion, which will surely delight him. You can find inexpensive accessories for your kids lunches online, or just include a silly joke on a paper for older kids who can read.

6. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut

Use your cookie cutters to create fun sandwiches.

There are tons of inspiring ideas on Pinterest and Instagram when it comes to school lunch. I’ve learned a lot of fun lunch ideas from Weelicious Lunches, both the cookbook and by following #weelunches on Instagram. She doesn’t spend time on cutting up sandwiches into cute shapes, but does offer a ton of variety of foods. If you and your kids are tired of sandwiches, check out this recipe book full of non-sandwich lunch ideas.  This ebook is 35% off until 9/7 with code: NOSTRESSLUNCH.

 7. Include the Kids in Packing Lunch

My daughter wants to stay up “late.” We have talked about how we will use that time in the fall to pack her lunch the night before. I’m hopeful she will enjoy making some of the choices of what to include in her lunch the next day. It gives the child a little more control over a small piece of their day.

8. Don’t Forget about Snack Time

This year we have to pack two snacks for our kindergartener. We choose the dual Pottery Barn Kids lunch box so I could have a separate place to keep snacks ready to go. Another option one parent suggested is placing snacks in a front pocket of a backpack so they are easily accessible. I pulled together some of my favorite snack ideas in my “Snack Break” Pinterest board if you need some inspiration.

9. Milk or Water?

milk or water

This is a hot topic among friends and while we like the idea of milk in the lunch box, the reality is it often comes back unfinished or worse, all over the lunch tote. Pack what your kids will drink, and make sure you have a water bottle that fits easily in their tote or backpack.

10. What else helps you make packing lunches a little easier? Leave a comment to help other parents!

Thank you to Pottery Barn Kids for providing these lunch totes and accessories to demonstrate the tips in this story. You can find their full assortment of lunch boxes and food storage containers at Pottery Barn Kids.

Jurassic Dinosaur Train

We have a few Dinosaur Train fans in our house. It’s a favorite show that appeals to both our five and three year old. Even I have learned a thing or two about dinosaurs while watching the show. On Monday, August 18, PBS KIDS will premiere “Classic in the Jurassic,” an all-new one hour special from The Jim Henson Company’s hit series DINOSAUR TRAIN!

In the special, kids travel through time with the Pteranodon family to an Olympic-type competition in which dinosaur teams representing three Mesozoic time periods compete in contests. Following the special, new episodes of DINOSAUR TRAIN air on PBS KIDS throughout the week!

Get the kids excited about the upcoming show and print out a few of these cute coloring pages found here.

Clips and full segments from “Classic in the Jurassic” will be available on pbskids.org, the PBS KIDS Video App, and on Roku and Apple TV starting on August 18. And on August 26, “Classic in the Jurassic” will be available on DVD through PBS Distribution.

Want a copy of the “Classic in the Jurassic” DVD and other DINOSAUR TRAIN goodies? Just leave a comment on this blog post sharing who you would give the Dinosaur Train gift to.

{Contest will be open until Friday August 22nd, 2014. Winner must be a US resident and will be notified via email. I am a PBS Kids VIP Ambassador but I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.}

 

Encouraging Creativity at the BeachDo you ever feel like you are bringing everything but the kitchen sink to the beach? From the towels, chairs, food and toys, it can be overwhelming packing up for the beach. Today I’m sharing a story about what happens when you let the kids use just one reusable yogurt container, with no guidance from mom and dad. It turned into a very cute and creative activity at the beach.

Meet Hermie, the little hermit crab the kids found while exploring the rocks at the beach.

Hermit Crab Beach Discovery

Hermie came back to our beach camp and then the kids went off to build Hermie his own home.

Building a sand castle together

The kids worked together to build Hermie a four room home, delightfully presented like a flower.

One little yogurt cup turned into quite a little project for these kids. It was a wonderful reminder that sometimes we need a little less to allow our children’s mind to tap into their imagination. They got no directions from us, just a lot of praise in the end on what a wonderful job they did building Hermie’s home. No one squabbled over the lack of toys, no one asked a grown up for help, and in the end, the kids were so excited to share what they built.

Proud kids of their beach house

It’s a great lesson as we think about the change of seasons in another month or two and we move indoors a little more. Where could we use “less” so that we allow our kids to reach into their imagination a little “more.”

Thank you to Stonyfield Yogurt for providing our family with complimentary yogurt through my involvement as a Clean Plate Club Ambassador. The kids love their Organic Vanilla yogurt for breakfast and I’m sure we can find even more creative uses for our yogurt cups this summer.

I am honored to be a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club. I received product or coupons for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar.

healthy snacks for a road trip

Are you getting ready for a road trip this summer? Anything that takes longer than one hour in the car for us is considered a “road trip” since we don’t do it often. We will be visiting Connecticut this weekend so I’m thinking about what snacks to pack to keep the whole family happy, and quiet, for the three hour drive.

The kids recently taste tested the OneBar and they gave it a big “yummy” when they tried out the apple, cherry and mango flavors. Kids can be very picky about eating fruit and the OneBar can help fill in the gaps. Each bar counts as a full serving of fruit, but is low calorie so the kids will still eat their next meal.

On car rides, one thing that drives me crazy is accidentally packing a snack that leads to very messy hands in the car. Since we drive a minivan, those kids are wayyyy in the back and I can’t just wipe hands off as we travel. Maybe your kids love cherries, but you won’t take the risk of packing cherries in the car. Could you imagine? Just pack a OneBar and they get a favorite treat and you don’t have to deal with the mess. Each bar is “dusted” with a superfruit called baobab. The dust keeps hands from getting sticky, but also delivers a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Onebar-what's inside?

For parents packing for kids with allergies or food sensitivities, the OneBar is made without gluten or wheat. Plus it’s made without added sugar, and no food dyes either. Sometimes life moves at a fast pace and it’s great to have a snack ready for a road trip or in between school and sports practice.

Packing a variety of snack items for the family on a road trip not only helps keep everyone’s energy level up, but it helps beat boredom. Try to pack a rainbow of colors and see if the kids can name every color they ate. Pack up snacks in individual bags so you can avoid sibling squabbles.

onebar flavors

Which flavor OneBar would your family like the most? Any new flavors you want to see in the mix?

All Random Recycling readers can enter to win a giveaway for three boxes (all three OneBar flavors, including Apple, Cherry and Mango). Don’t want to wait for the contest? Order now with the coupon code EasyFruit – good for 25% off their total order placed by August 31 at OneBar. Check out where everyone else is enjoying their OneBar by searching the hashtag #easyfruit.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

onebar healthy snack

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar. All opinions shared here are my own.
Tracking Pixel

As summer vacation beckons, it’s a time for kids to let loose and just play. It’s also a good time to let them read books of their own choosing to foster their interests. In our family, we often plan a visit to a new library when we have a rainy summer day. We read as many books there as we can, then put them away and say goodbye till next time. Having a “new” place to read can help keep the fun in an educational activity, for both little kids and big kids.

Pottery Barn Kids partnered with PBS Kids to promote the Summer Reading Challenge. Read any 8 titles from their recommended list and receive a free book! PB Kids stores also have weekly story times where kids can help reach their goal. The challenge runs through July 17th.

Creating a summer reading nook is another way to encourage reading during the quiet times of the day. On a recent visit to Pottery Barn Kids, they shared their ideas for a successful reading nook.

create a reading nook

There are also some fun book plate DIY projects to make with the kids for their favorite books. I tried making a couple at the Pottery Barn Kids store and will do it again with my kids. The downloadable templates for the project is found on the Building Blocks blog, a fun collection of ideas from Pottery Barn Kids.

  DIY book plate

Here is the list of books included in the challenge:

·         Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

·         Big Brothers Don’t Take Naps by Louise Borden

·         Corduroy by Don Freeman

·         Curious Baby Counting by H.A. Rey

·         Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

·         Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise

·         Heads by Matthew Van Fleet

·         How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? By Mark Teague

·         How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?  by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

·         Ladybug Girl by David Samon and Jacky Davis

·         Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

·         Madeline and the Old House in Paris by John Bemelmans Marciano

·         Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney

·         Olivia by Ian Falconer

·         Paddington Bear by Michael Bond and R.W. Alley

·         Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin

·         Sniff by Matthew Van Fleet

·         Tallulah’s Toe Shoes by Marilyn Singer and Alexandra Boiger

·         The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

·         What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff and Lynn Munsinger

 

Ready to create a new summer reading nook for your kids? To kick things off, Pottery Barn Kids is offering a $25 gift card to one lucky winner. Please leave a comment below naming your favorite childhood book. Contest is open until Saturday June 7th. Winner will be notified via email.

Daniel Tiger pbs kids

Have you ever wanted to peek at what your kids are doing online at that very moment in time? Maybe you are at work or you are trying to give them some quiet alone time. Are they watching videos or still working on an educational game? PBS Kids recently came out with the Super Vision app (for iPhone) that allows parents to check in on their child’s activity on pbskids.org in real time.  It’s like you can be Super Mom with eyes in the back of your head.

The technology connecting your child’s activity on pbskids.org and the app on your iPhone is very new and very cool. After a one time sync, you can get a snapshot of what your kid is working on, plus a report card for the day or week’s activities. Maybe your kid loves Curious George but is ready for something new. The app will make suggestions for other PBS Kids shows they may enjoy.

PBS Kids Super Vision app has a timer to transition kids from online activity to meal time or bedtime.

Another wonderful feature is the timer. If you are making dinner and want to let the kids play online for a little while, you can set a timer to close out their show or activity. You can choose it to transition to meal time, snack time or bedtime. I love that I have a helping hand in transitioning the kids to the next activity of the day.

If you download the app and start thinking of other features you would like to see, there is a feedback button where you can submit your ideas. PBS Kids wants this app to be helpful and they appreciate hearing your comments which helps prioritize what new features will be added.

pbskids.org

My kids have been into tv shows a little more than I would like lately and I’m trying to offer up the pbskids.org site as an alternative. I think it’s cool to get a glimpse into the types of activities they are choosing, either math, science or literacy. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

PBS Kids Super Vision app

Learn a little more about the Super Vision app at a Twitter party Wed 5/21 9-10PM ET using the hashtag  #SuperVisionPBSKIDS .

Disclosure: I am a PBS Kids VIP blogger and my kids love Curious George, Peg + Cat and Wild Kratts. All opinions shared here are my own.