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First Day of School 2015 {our traditions continue}

The first day of school is a huge milestone for kids, and in our house, we always mark the occasion with a few family traditions. This year was no exception.


We always start the day with a special breakfast... pancakes and drinks in fancy glasses.

Then, we get ready for school, and I get the boys to pose for pictures holding pictures from the year before. The boys are always excited to look back at how much they have changed from the previous year.

After the pictures, the boys head for the bus, and I meet them at their school and help them find their classes. They always bring treats for their friends and treats for their teachers.




Finally, when the school day is over, we always have a special after school treat. I love sitting around the kitchen table, eating cookies, and talking about the boys' day.

Do you have special first day of school traditions? It's a sad day for me, and it is hard to say good bye to summer, but making the first day of school a fun occasion helps us get through!


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

First Day of School Treat (free printable tags)

The first day of school is a big deal for kids, so I always like to pop an extra special treat in each of my boys lunch boxes. This year, I made their favorite chocolate chip cookies, and added a cute little note.


The note would be cute attached to a pre-packaged snack too.


In fact, I put together a bunch for my boys' to take to school on the first day to share with their friends. Cute, right?


This is an easy and inexpensive way to make the first day of school special. I love the idea of my boys passing out little treats to their classmates on the first day of school. If you would like to do this for your little ones, you can download the tags for free by: right-clicking on the picture below, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular 4X6 photo.


Isn't this a cute treat for the first day of school? What special "goodie" did your little one request in his/her lunchbox?


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Pool Noodle Craft Projects {dollar store crafts}

I love dollar store crafts, and pool noodles from the dollar store are among my favorite dollar store crafting materials. Pool noodles are fun, inexpensive, and versatile, and today I am sharing some of my favorite pool noodle craft ideas and tutorials.


1) Lightsabres - My boys are huge Star Wars fans, so it is no surprise that these super-cute pool noodle lightsabres continue to be a huge source of entertainment in my house. To make them, you just need: pool noodles, duct tape, electrical tape, stickers, and the tutorial that you can find here


2) Poppers - These pool noodle poppers are easy to make and super-fun to play with. They also make fantastic prizes and party favours. Check out the full pom pom popper tutorial here


3) Boats - My boys loved making these simple pool noodle boats. You can read about our boating adventure and get the full tutorial here.


4) Wreaths - Pool noodles make fantastic and inexpensive wreath forms. You can find the tutorial for making a pool noodle wreath form here.  And you can find a tutorial for my Halloween pool noodle wreath here



5) Holiday decor - Pool noodles provide great inspiration for holiday crafting. Pick up a bunch of pool noodles during the summer months so that you will have them on hand when needed. You can find the tutorial for my pool noodle witch legs here.


6) Party decor - DIY party decor can really make a party feel special, and pool noodles can be transformed into fantastic party props. For example, I turned a pool noodle into a palm tree for my son's pirate party. You can find the full tutorial for my pool noodle palm tree here. Fun, right?


I just love pool noodles. They really are one of my favorite crafting materials... and they are so inexpensive! Do you have a fantastic pool noodle creation? I'd love you to share it in the comments (below).


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Pool Noodle Boat

One of the items on our summer checklist this year was "craft a boat and float it down a river". It's a lot of fun for my boys to make boats, take them to the river, and see how week they sail. In the past, we have used popsicle sticks, paper and stuff from our recycling bin. This year, we made simple (and super cool) pool noodle boats.


The boys loved their pool noodle boats because were waterproof and very buoyant, and I loved how simple they were to make.


To make a pool noodle boat:

1) Cut two equal-sized pieces from a pool noodle. I used a serrated knife.
2) Use electrical tape to attach a straw to the middle of one of the pool noodles.
3) Use duct tape to attach the two pool noodles together.
4) Cut a sail from craft foam, decorate (if desired), and use a hole punch to attach it to the boat.


We took our pool noodle boats down to the river, and my boys had a fantastic time chasing them along the shore line. It was a fantastic way to spend some time outside with my boys.


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

School Lunch HACKS

Each year has 195 school days, and I have three boys -- that's 585 school lunches each year. Making easy and nutritious lunches that kids will actually eat can be challenging, so today I am sharing some school lunch hacks that will help make the process a little less painful!


1) Breakfast for lunch - My boys aren't big sandwich eaters, so breakfast for lunch is a popular option in our house. I often make a big batch of French toast (made with whole wheat bread, eggs, milk and a touch of cinnamon) and freeze it. Then, I take a slice out of the freezer each morning, heat it up in my toaster oven, cut it up, and stick it in a thermos.


Cereal is another simple “breakfast for lunch” option. I fill a thermos with a low-sugar cereal, and my boys add milk at lunchtime. With the addition of some fruits and vegetables, it’s a pretty nutritionally balanced meal.


2) Stock the pantry and the freezer - I love to bake in large batches, wrap the items individually, and store them in the freezer. Then, each night, I just pull what I need from the freezer, and pop them in the lunch bags. This method works great for biscuits, muffins, and cookies.


A well-stocked pantry is also a must. I always buy lunch staples (like granola bars, raisins, unsweetened applesauce, etc…) in bulk when they are on sale. Then, I take them out of their original packaging and put them in plastic containers from the dollar store. This little trick helps save money, makes lunch items quicker to access, and frees up cupboard space.



3) Free lunchbox notes - I love to leave little notes in my boys' lunches because it lets them know that I am thinking about them while they are at school. To download the notes I designed (for free), right-click on one of the pictures below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular photo. (FYI: The apple notes are 8X10 and the bear notes are 4X6.)



4) Apple trick - My middle son is missing some of his baby teeth, so he can only eat an apple if I cut it up for him... and he doesn't like when an apple starts to turn brown. The solution: cut an apple, put it back together, and secure it with an elastic or some plastic wrap. 


5) DIY ice packs - Frozen yogurt tubes are fun to eat, they keep lunches cool, and they thaw in time for lunch. A damp sponge in a Ziploc sandwich bag also makes an easy DIY ice pack that they can use to clean there hands after they eat.


I hope these school lunch HACKS help make "back to school" a little less painful in your home. Do you have a school lunch HACK you'd like to share? I can use all the help I can get!


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Easy Summer Science Experiment for Kids

In the mood for something fun and easy that will entertain and educate your children? Check out this simple science experiment, which is perfect for a sunny summer afternoon.


All you need to do is: fill a Ziploc bag with water, seal the bag, and then stick sharp pencils (slowly) through both sides of the bag. My boys were delighted to discover that no water leaks from the bag! (Note: You'll want to hold up the top of the bag so that bag doesn't get wider than the pencils when the water settles at the bottom.)


When my boys were finished, they pulled out the pencils and watched the water squirt out from the holes. It was a fantastic way to cool off on a warm afternoon.

My boys had so much fun, that we decided to finish the day with another classic experiment. We filled a bottle 3/4 full of vinegar, added some baking soda, and quickly capped the bottle with a balloon. My boys loved watching the baking soda/vinegar reaction blow up the balloon.


I love a simple science experiment, don't you? We might have to squeeze in a few more before the boys head back to school.


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Road Trip Survival Tips

This summer, our family did something we have never done before. We piled into our mini van, and we drove 1,454 kilometers. As the mother of three very active boys, I was pretty nervous about undertaking this adventure; however, our road trip turned out to a lot of fun. Today, I am sharing some road trip survival tips that really worked for us.


1) Print out a map of the route and set expectations. Let the kids know it is going to be a long drive, ban the question "Are we there yet?", and give the kids frequent updates so that they can track progress on the map.

2) Make the kids comfortable, hydrated and well fed. The kids should be dressed in comfy clothes and surrounded by pillows and blankets. A bin with lots of water and snacks should also be easily accessible.


3) Wrap a box full of trinkets and treats. When the kids need a distraction, they can unwrap one of the presents (which can include books, treats, games, glow sticks, activity books, silly putty, and gum)


Gum is great for stretching out the time between snacks.


4) Play car games. Search the internet for road trip game ideas. My boys loved a road trip scavenger hunt that I printed out for them.


5) Play music, listen to audio books, and watch movies. When it comes to boredom busting, electronics can be your best friend. Audio books (which are available at the library) are a fantastic idea because they can entertain the kids AND the driver.


6) Make the road trip part of the vacation. There is no need to make a long drive pure torture. If the kids need a break, stop. A five minute break to run around and stretch will make a road trip much more enjoyable. There are also many interesting sites along highways. e.g. We made a quick stop at the "world's largest covered bridge", and we were glad we did. 


7) Plan stops or stay somewhere overnight. I have discovered that my children are not designed to sit still in a car for more than eight hours, and if your kids are like mine, it may be worth the investment to take a break and spend a night at a hotel. A swim in a pool, a good night's sleep, and a hot breakfast will set you up for success on day two of your journey. (Bonus tip: Switching seats at rest stops is also a fun idea, as it gives everyone a change of scenery.)


I have heard that some people have had success with driving all night, but my boys are not good at sleeping in a car, so I ruled out this option for us. I also feel that getting to a destination with well-rested kids and exhausted parents sounds like a bit of a nightmare.

I am really pleased with how our road trip adventure unfolded, and I would definitely do it again. With a little prep, road trips can be a positive experience and a fantastic way to create childhood memories. 


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)


PS (Make sure you pack Ziploc bags. They are great for storing wet bathing suits and come in handy if someone gets car sick. Baby wipes also a fantastic thing to have in the van. They are useful for dirty hands and quick clean up.)
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