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11 Tips for Preparing Kids for Starting School

My youngest son is starting school for the first time in September, so I thought it was a good time to share some tips to help parents prepare their kids for starting school. Some of these tips are based on my own experience (as a mom), and others came from some great teachers I know.

Here are 11 great ways to prepare kids for the transition to "big school":

1)  Read books to your child so that they see reading as a source of enjoyment.  In preparation for school, you can choose some books with a "starting school" theme.  Our two favorites are: The Kissing Hand and Llama Llama Loves his Mama.

2)  Have your child practice printing his/her name with an uppercase letter as the first letter, followed by lowercase letters.  Also, practice recognizing the other letters of the alphabet.  While you are reading to your child, point out letters, and have them identify them.

3)  Teach your child to go to the bathroom on their own.  Take them to a public washroom, and have them do everything themselves.  Teach them how to lock and unlock a stall door, use soap, get paper towel from a towel dispenser, unbutton and button their own pants, and wipe their own bum.

4)  Practice getting dressed.  Practice buttons and zippers, and if they can't tie, buy velcro sneakers.

5)  Think about lunches.  Have your child practice opening containers, and talk about healthy meal options for them.  Also, don't be worried if the lunch box comes home full at first.  Sometimes lunch at school can be overwhelming and takes getting used to. Encourage your kids to eat their lunch at school, but if it comes home, they can finish it as an after school snack.

6) Talk about what will happen.  Before the big day, talk about what will happen... e.g. you'll take the bus, you'll have your own desk, you'll eat lunch in the cafeteria, you'll play outside after lunch, etc...  It can also be helpful to tour the school and visit the playground before the first day.

7)  Label everything.  Your child will lose some of their belongings, and labels will help you get them back.  (You can support my blog by purchasing labels through this link.  Thank you!)

8)  Start traditions.  The first day of "big school" is the perfect time to start first day of school traditions.  You can read about our families first day of school traditions here.

9)  Get up early on the first day, and make sure clothes and lunches are taken care of the night before.  Being organized will help ensure that the child doesn't feel rushed, and this will eleviate unnecessary stress on the first day.  It might even be worth a "first day run through" the day before.

10)  Keep the lines of communications open.  Often children are tired after school, and this makes them reluctant to talk about their day.  I find that it helps if I ask specific questions after school.  e.g. Who did you play with at recess?  Who did you play with at lunch time?  What did you do when you played outside?  Did you make any crafts today?  What was your favorite part of the day?  Were you a good listener today? What was the worst part of your day, etc.....

11)  Empty back packs and do homework as soon as you get home from school (if possible).  This is a great habit to get into... and the sooner the better.

What is your best tip for new moms and dads that have little ones heading to school for the first time?  Did it make my list?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Tips for Teaching Kids about Giving Back... and a $100 #RockTheHalls giveaway from Sears

Last weekend, my boys hosted a yard sale and lemonade stand with 100% of the proceeds going to Cystic Fibrosis.  They collected old toys, made signs, baked cookies, and waited on customers, and they raised $264.35.  It was a proud mommy moment for me.

When it comes to teaching kids about giving back, here are some tips I have found helpful:

1)  Let the kids pick a charity or cause that is meaningful to them.  (My boys have a little cousin with Cystic Fibrosis, so it makes them feel good knowing that they are helping make him.)

2)  Let the kids decide what to do.  (My boys have organized Christmas parties, sold toys, and worked lemonade stands.)

3)  Let the kids do the work.  (They will feel more connected to the act of giving, if they are doing the work themselves.)

My boys aren't the only ones spreading kindness... Sears is also working hard to "give back" during this back to school season.  In addition to their great work with the Boys and Girls Club of Canada (see below)*, they have been surprising customers (in store and online this month) with free purchases.  (Check out the link to see how much fun they are having surprising their customers.)  

Sears has also offered to give away a $100 gift card to one of my lucky readers to help with their back to school shopping.  Just visit Sears (here), and let me know what you would buy with your $100 gift card to help your little one #RockTheHalls this year.  Leave your answer in the comments below, and don't forget to leave your email address (if it isn't linked to your profile) so that I can contact you if you win.  

Sears carries a variety of top quality brands at reasonable prices – and carries all the styles your kids love, so I am sure you'll have fun with this contest.

Good luck!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears Back to School Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Contest Rules:
1) The winner of the contest will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.
2) To enter the contest, you must leave a comment on this post. Contest is open to Canadian residents over the age 18 (excluding Quebec).  You can enter across multiple blogs, but you can only win once.
3) This contest is not being hosted or sanctioned in any way by Facebook.
4)  Contest closes on August 25, 2014 at 11:59pm.
5)  Prize will be accepted as awarded.  If you win, you can expect to receive your prize 4-6 weeks after the contest closes.
6)  Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected. 

*Sears Canada have been a proud supporter for over 40 years of Boys and Girls Club across Canada (BGCC), Canada’s leading provider of quality after school programs that support the healthy physical, educational, social and mental development of Canadian children and youth. Sears shares Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s philosophy that providing all Canadian children and youth with access to opportunity is essential to helping them achieve their full potential and create a better future.  To help out with this year’s back-to-school season, Sears Canada and Converse will be providing the GBCC with $10,000 worth of BTS Apparel!

Back to School Countdown Chain

Back to school is around the corner, so I wanted share this back to school countdown chain I made with my boys.  Each chain link contains a fun activity we can do together.

Isn't it cute? I love how my boys' adorable faces are peeking out of the windows of the bus.

I am sharing the full step by step tutorial over at CBC Parents today.  Pop on over and check it out.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Cinnamon Sugar Campfire Snack

I have found the best campfire snack... seriously. The boys and I tried it out last weekend (with our new backyard fire pit), and it turned out fantastic! If you like cinnamon, you are going to love this cinnamon sugar campfire snack

To make this great alternative to s'mores, you'll need: a marshmallow roasting fork, tin foil, canned biscuit dough, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Then, just follow these simple directions:

1) Cover a roasting fork with tin foil.
2) Stretch out a piece of biscuit dough, and wrap it around the roasting fork.
3) Spread some butter over the dough.
4) Sprinkle both sides with a cinnamon/sugar mixture (1/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 tbsp cinnamon)
5) Roast over a very hot fire as close to the heat source as possible until it is no longer "doughy". 
6) Allow to cool slight, and then enjoy!

This is such a delicious alternative to roasting marshmallows.  If you give this cinnamon sugar campfire snack a try, let me know what you think.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Summer Checklist Update... and a fun idea for capturing summer smiles

Summer is flying by, and the boys and I are still working on completing all the items on our Summer Checklist.  With two weeks to go before school starts, we have completed 35 of the 50 items on our list.  Yesterday we completed #36 -- have a dance party in the living room -- and let me tell you... my boys have some serious dance moves!

My boys make me smile all the time, and as a KINDERMom, I am excited to share KINDER's fantastic new app with you.  #KinderSmiles is a fun and interactive way for parents to capture and share moments of joy in a playful way.  Once you're a KINDER® fan, it's just a few simple steps:

Step 1: Like KINDER® on Facebook

Step 2: Start your photo-strip

Step 3: Upload your photos

Step 4: Choose a fancy KINDER® frame

Step 5: Choose a filter

Step 6: Save & share

It's an easy way to capture summer memories.  My strip includes pictures of my boys hosting a lemonade stand for charity, my boys at my 5 year old's pirate party, and my boys at my 7 year old's spy party.  So many #KinderSmiles, and so much summer fun!

What has been the highlight of your summer so far?  Do you have any "must do" items left on your summer bucket list?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I’m part of theKinder® Mom program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Alphabet Crafts - Letter Z

Last week my youngest son and I completed the last craft in our "crafting our way through the alphabet" adventure.  We made an adorable Zebra mask (from a paper plate), and we did a little letter Z printing practice.

To make a zebra mask:

1) Cut two "eye holes" from a paper plate.
2) Cut a strip of black construction paper for the mane, and cut slits 3/4 of the way down the paper.
3) Cut a round circle from a piece of black construction paper. Glue mane and snout onto the paper plate.
4) Cut ears from a piece of cardstock. Color the inside of the ears pink.
5) Draw zebra stripes with a marker, and color them in with a black crayon.
6) Glue two pink buttons onto the snout.
7) Allow all the glue to dry, and then tape a popsicle stick onto the back.

After our craft, we did a little printing practice. If you want to practice printing the letter Z with your little one, right click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it.

That's it!  We have finally completed a our 26 alphabet crafts.  It was a really fun project for my little guy and myself.  Have you made any of my alphabet crafts with your child?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

7 Tips for Planning a Successful DIY Party for Kids

Children’s parties don’t need to be elaborate to be fun, and they shouldn’t be stressful for parents. So, today I am sharing my tips for hosting easy, inexpensive, and memorable parties for kids.

1) Plan ahead.  Do as much as you can before the day of the party so that when the big day arrives, you can enjoy it without being totally stressed out. Decide how many people you will be inviting, where you will host the party, and the date and time that will work best for you and your guests. I like to have a party in the afternoon because it gives me the entire morning to get everyone and everything ready. I also like to schedule 1-½ hours for the party. We never spend time opening gifts (as we always ask guests to bring a $2 coin in lieu of a gift), so this seems to be the proper amount of time for us. If you are opening gifts, I would suggest 2 hours.

2)  Pick a theme.  A theme will influence the invitation, the decorations, and the activities at the party. It can revolve around a character, a sport, an activity, or a color scheme. Having a theme is really about having something that ties all the elements of the party together. This year my five year old chose a Jake and the Neverland Pirates Party, and my seven year old chose a Spy Party.

3)  Add a personal touch. You can bake a special cake, craft your own decorations, or cook your signature dish to serve to guests. The unique DIY details are what the guests will remember.

4)  Have a schedule written out. You’ll have to be flexible, but a rough guide is definitely helpful. I always like to have a simple craft or activity to keep the kids busy until all the guests have arrived. Then, we eat, play games or make crafts, take a group photo, and serve the cake.

5)  Make sure that the activities at the party are fun, simple and age appropriate. You can play games, decorate cupcakes, or do a craft. If you have a large group, breaking the kids up into smaller groups can be helpful in keeping everything under control.

6)  Make sure everyone leaves with a small gift or loot bag. I try to come up with something that goes with the theme of the party. For our spy party, I put together little spy kits in a brown paper bags that were marked “top secret”. It’s a fun way to let your guests know that you appreciate having them celebrate with you.

7)  Relax and enjoy the party. Little ones are surprisingly easy to please. If good friends, music, balloons, and cake surround them, all will have a good time.

What's your best tip when planning a successful DIY party for kids?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
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