5 Back to School Items That Aren’t On Your School Supply List, But Should Be

school supply list

It’s a prized possession or an abhorred asset. Either way, it’s the back to school supply list, and it has to be filled, fast. Fast because you’ll want to buy all the things you’ll need before the stores run out of stock, and you’re left running around trying to track down the specific kinds of pencils and erasers your child’s teacher asked for.

But before you run out the door, add the following to your child’s list so you’re fully prepared to start the school year.

An extra lunch bag

Lunch bags are easily tossed around, trampled on and spilled on, so you’ll be better prepared if you have an extra at home. Even if we try to empty the lunch bags as soon as the kids’ get home from school everyday, there’s bound to be a time or two when schedules overwhelm us and we fail to empty at 4 o’clock. It seems like that’s always the day that there’s a spilled applesauce sticking to the sides. With an extra lunchbox, I can clean and set the messy bag out to dry while still sending my child to school with a fresh lunch bag the next day. Lands End lunchboxes fit nicely into traditional backpacks, are insulated and the right size to fit all my elementary school and preschool kids’ needs.

Water bottle

Our school doesn’t have air conditioning, but even if your’s does, there are bound to be days when your child will appreciate a water bottle to hydrate–whether they’re fighting off a cold or just ran several 50-yard dashes in PE. Refill a fresh water bottle for your kids each day to help make sure they’re staying hydrated, as well as teach them a healthy-water habit. We like ours to have a double-close system so that leaks are less likely.

Ice packs

With three kids, we go through about 6 ice packs a day, and each takes about 24 hours to refreeze, so I purchase at least 18 ice packs at the beginning of the school year to keep the kids’ lunches cold.


You’ll hear a million times to label everything, but teachers rarely recommend that you actually buy labels. Which, often, means you’ll be reaching for a Sharpie the night before school and writing your kids’ names until your hand falls off. Take advantage of the time you’re taking to shop early and order labels asap. While researching this post, I found that Mabel’s Labels Back-to-School is offering early bird pricing on their back to school packages, so order asap.

A new reading book

It’s a great idea to have a reading book your child loves tucked into her back pack on the first day of school. Some kids are a bit more hesitant to fight for space (or a popular book) in the classroom library on the first day, so giving her one she already knows she loves will give her confidence to start reading during quiet reading time. She’ll also feel better knowing she has a book she can read, if together you’ve previewed or started reading it at home.

Desk organizer

When my friend installed this inside her daughter’s desk during the school open house last fall, all the moms stared in awe. Her child’s already looked neater and more organized than the rest of our kids’. The NeatNook gives your child the opportunity to access her items as she would a drawer, rather than stuffing things inside the black-hole of a school desk.

Family Organizing System

Whether you’re uber-organized or still trying to figure it out, now is a great time to recheck your program and tweak it to work for your new school year. Once you find a system you think will work best for you, take the time to adapt it, and then keep at it. Nothing will work unless you make it a habit so push yourself to follow your system each day until it becomes natural. Some great family organizing systems include momAgenda, Go! Mom, and Buttoned Up.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Grant Cochrane

A Beautiful Lesson In Boredom

As a child I looked forward to summers. They were epic, simple, relaxing and enjoyable. Our children have not been afforded that same epic, simple, relaxing and enjoyable summer. Between family time, play-dates, activities and the list goes on there is very little down time. Things are different today because we are raising a society that does not know the simple pleasures of alone time or down time. So let’s help them get back to the basics in these simple four ideas.

Five Ideas for Turning Boredom Into Fun: 

The Name Game – Have them select “enjoying myself” activities according to their name.
• Select an activity for each letter of their name or enjoy five activities this week. Ex: Nadia
o N – Nursery time of moving the earth by maintain flowers or building a fort.
o A – Animal alone time by spending quality time with a family pet one on one.
o D – Dancing or practicing drilling a basketball or enjoying your dolls.
o I – An inside activity they can do alone or discovering a new activity which interest them.
o A – Planning an advance plan to get better at something whether it is reading, playing a musical instrument, playing a sport or beyond.

Challenge of The Day – Assign each person a day to plan a silent challenge of the day.
o Bug collecting
o Crafting for 30 minutes.
o DIY quiet time
o Gardening
o Reading for 30 minutes.

Being Me – Have a FUN day of just being.
o Being quiet.
o Being still.
o Being in the moment.
o Being able to accept AND embrace a day of nothing plan.

Sharing the fine art of yoga and meditation.
Yes, embrace this with our children. This should be the beginning of GOLDEN moments together and enjoy their skill set to enjoy and embrace alone time, creativity and space clearing.

Group Painting. 

Kids love painting but when you make a painting project a group activity there’s a whole new fun element. Start by giving the kids a theme for the painting. Animals, scene at a park, then let them collaborate together to make a beautiful piece.

In essence, boredom should allow a kids creative time in their own space. This is a GRAND opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds within their own parameters which allows them to learn engagement with themselves and the world on their own terms.

Rainbow Mosaic Craft

scrap paper rainbow craft

You might remember my previous post Let them cut paper! Now that you have been letting them use scissors you should have lots of little pieces of paper floating around your house. I kept mine in baggies by color so they were all ready for our final color activity. You can’t have a color unit without ending with the rainbow!! Here is a fun and fabulous activity kids of all ages will love!!!


Supplies needed:

  • Colored scraps of paper in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple
  • White glue
  • Light blue construction paper
  • Sharpie
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic lids or paper plates


I put the paper in Ikea bowls that come in rainbow colors so they are perfect for holding the paper in the right color order. They are great for color sorting activities too!

scrap paper rainbow

For this activity with my little ones I drew a cloud and lines for the rainbow to help them have a guide. Then they glued away and had a great time.

creative paper craft for kids

For the cloud they spread apart cotton balls and glued them down for a fluffy three dimensional look.

cutting with scissors craft for kids

This was a hit with all my kids! My oldest daughter decided it looked like fun and wanted to make her own mosaic picture with the rainbow colors.

scrap paper craft

It is great for all of them to have fun doing an activity at their own levels!!



White glue can be hard for little fingers to get out of the bottle. They either use half a bottle in a matter of minutes or they squeeze and squeeze and nothing comes out. Years ago I started saving my plastic lids from sour cream containers and other plastic lids to use for art. They are the perfect surface to put glue and paint on. It washes right off when you are done and you can reuse them over and over! Put a blob of glue in the middle of the lid and little ones can use cotton swabs to get the glue where they need it. Way less mess and way less wasting of glue!!!

scrap paper rainbow craft for kids

What activities do you do that incorporate a large age group of children?

I would love for you to share!

Educational Activities for the Summer

educational activities for summer

No more pencils no more books!! Remember that old song. We’re deep into summer, but I’m already thinking about how to keep their brains sharp and free from any brain drain. I’m all for a super fun summer but I know we have to fit in some educational activities so the kids don’t forget everything they’ve learned this far.

With a good list of summer learning activities to lean on you’ll never be at a loss for finding something fun but instructive for the kids to do when there have been maybe too many popsicles.

Assign a book report. This may sound utterly cruel but a book report doesn’t have to be a 5 page summary of a boring story. Choose any age appropriate book or section of chapters and then chose 3-4 questions that your child about the plot, characters or even the emotion that characters are feeling. It doesn’t have to be difficult but it should be enough to get them thinking about the story as they read it.

Play online games. Rusty and Rosy Reading has been a part of our home for more than 2 years. It grows with our youngest child so she is never at a loss for games that match her ability. Set a timer and let your child explore their favorite educational software. Find one that gives you scores or a review of your child’s progress.

Visit with nature. We’ll enjoy lots of visits to our parks to enjoy the playground, ride bikes or have a picnic. What about arming yourselves with binoculars, notebook & pen and a smartphone. Look for birds, bugs, plants and flowers and see if you can identify them by looking up characteristics. This is a great time to learn the “Leaves of Three, Let Them Be” rhyme.leaves of three let it be rhyme

Leaves of three, let it be!
Leaves of five, let it thrive!
Hairy vine? No friend of mine!
Berries white, danger in sight!
Red leaflets in spring are a dangerous thing.
Side leaflets like mittens will itch like the dickens!
Berries of red will soon be dead!
White and yellow, kill a fellow.
Plants get too thick, run away quick!
Berries of blue will do harm to you!

Host a lemonade stand. Give the kids a lesson in math by helping them run a lemonade stand. Let them know that it doesn’t just take the sale of a cup of lemonade to make a profit. What about the cost of making the lemonade, creating signs and buying supplies.

Take a field trip. Museums of all kinds are found in cities big and small. Research what can be found in your neck of the woods and see if the kids will learn something new. Don’t dismiss the obscure finds, they can often be the most fun.

Learn the history.  With just a few clicks on a computer you can find a history lesson in your own backyard. Find out about the first settlers in your area or your states leading agricultural producer or who your highway is named after.

Keeping the summer productive with educational activities doesn’t have to be boring. Look at things in a different way to hold your kid’s attention and keep them happy.

Poison Ivy image provided via Flickr from Carterse

Let them cut paper!

How to teach a toddler to use scissors safely

I know many of you read the title and went running in the other direction thinking I had lost my mind! As a former kindergarten teacher I was always amazed at the number of kids who came to school and had never held a pair of scissors before, let alone cut anything. Using scissors is a fabulous fine motor activity that really helps children in many areas, especially writing. Parents had every excuse in the book as to why their child had not used scissors; they would cut their hair, cut their clothes, cut the couch etc. Honestly I have my fifth child learning how to use scissors and we have never had more than a little hair trimmed. Let me tell you a secret about scissors; if you watch your children while they use scissors and then put them away when they are done they won’t have a chance to get into any trouble with them!! Earth shattering shocking information, I know! So give it a try let your preschooler or toddler use scissors. It will provide hours of entertainment and be a skill that will build their fine motor development.

Try the following activity when introducing scissors……

We are learning about colors this month with my 3 year old. She insists that everything is blue because it is her favorite color so we are trying to open her stubborn eyes to the other wonderful colors of the world! We are reading lots of fun color books like the following.

Every few days we discuss a different color and then she gets to use scissors and cut up a piece of paper in that color. She gets a pair of scissors, a piece of construction paper, and a bowl to catch the scraps.

This method is just getting her comfortable using scissors. There are no lines to follow and it doesn’t matter the size or the shape of the pieces. She is just learning confidence with scissors and practicing her fine motor skills. I am saving each colorful bowl of scraps in a baggie to be used in a fun craft at the end of our color unit.

Try it with your child this month, I promise you won’t be disappointed in how much fun they will have with such a simple activity. Save your scraps and come back soon for our fun rainbow craft!!! 

Learning at the grocery store: BINGO Printables

When you take your children grocery shopping, it is a perfect time to teach them about food and nutrition.  Now, taking a few BINGO cards shopping will definitely lengthen your trip and you will have to plan this trip on a day when you’ve had your coffee and have plenty of time.  But this trip will definitely be worth every minute!

There is nothing quite like hands on learning.  And this BINGO game facilitates the conversation about food and makes it fun. Discuss how the different types of food help our bodies. Protein builds muscle, vitamin c helps fight disease and calcium helps make your bones strong. Also take this opportunity to allow your child to pick out some new fruits and veggies and try them for the first time.   When you prepare them, look up where they come from and have a mini-geography lesson too.

Below are four different printables. The first three are already filled out, just take a crayon with your child and have fun! You can also print out the blank one.

The blank BINGO card is actually excellent if you want to create a fun lesson plan around nutrition. Grab some magazines or print photos off the internet and let your child choose, cut and paste different types of food to the card.  You can also suggest the child work on penmanship and spelling by writing out the words or challenge them to draw each item they hope to find.

Challenge older children to read labels and understand different ingredients. Maybe even challenge them to find products based on the vitamins they contain.  Help them learn beginning chemistry by discovering exactly what the vitamins do in our bodies and why we need them.

And if you are pressed for time, spend one day creating the BINGO card and another day at the grocery store.

Have fun! (Click the images you want to print below. They will print full size – 8×10)

Skills taught:

  • Nutrition
  • Health
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Science
  • Critical Thinking

Learning Through Summer Fun


Learning Through Summer Fun via @JusticeJonesie

Learning through summer fun is so important and vital to the success of your child! If they are having fun while learning they embrace it better. Here are six tips to have them fun learn.

Staycation fun – While doing things around your city to it into a learning trip. Already have a map of the venue. Ex: The Zoo, The Children’s Museum etc… Talk the trip up and the day before go over the website or brochure and select the must see items as a team. From there come up with two to three questions that they are to seek the answer to while visiting.

Trip to the grocery – Make a grocery list with the kids and put each child in charge of something like fruit or cereal or vegetables. Go over the best ways to make their selects before going into the store. This can be with coupons, the sales etc… Then plan the big field trip. It will take more time than usual however this is well worth the lesson so be patient and get in on the fun.

Game night – This is ALWAYS a load of fun and summers are made for fun. Set aside time for a game night once a week. Be sure everyone gets a turn at selecting the game including you and even turn the healthy snack choices in to a game.

Fitness choices – This should be GREAT for all. As a family select a weekly exercise plan for the family. It does not have to be daily or for a set amount of time however I suggest two to three times a week. Make the exercise time fun like going to the pool or bike riding or even an amusement park.

Plan a trip – Yes, plan a trip as a family unit. This does not have to be Disney. It may be a staycation at a local hotel, camping, a beach vacation etc… Embrace the kids’ ideas. Make sure to cover the who, what, when, where, how and budget. This just may be the BEST lesson of the summer.

Organizing The Household – I love this because it is needed no matter what your resources. Plan a family cleaning routine and organization that is outside the school year responsibilities. Ask each kid what they feel could better organize their space and develop a plan to make it happen.


25 Last Minute Activities For Your Family This Summer


As Olaf so cutely shared, “I just love summer.” And I do. For about three days of unstructured fun, I love the idea of lazing away my summer days with my kids. And then, usually, reality strikes and I need a list of things to do.

As a group, we usually create a Summer Bucket List (here’s a Pinterest board with several other family’s lists.) But I also like to keep a list list of last minute activities we can do in a moment’s notice in my back pocket. Things that need little to no supplies, but can get us moving on an unstructured day over the summer when we desperately need something to do.

The Best Last Minute Activities To Do with Your Kids Over the Summer

  1. visit the library
  2. go to the zoo
  3. find a semi local small town you’ve never visited and explore
  4. go to a museum (Child friendly museums usually have treasure hunts and activities for children.)
  5. create an ABC summer book
  6. make an obstacle course
  7. draw masterpieces on your sidewalk or driveaway, leaving no space un-colored
  8. prepare and host a neighborhood “carnival”
  9. host a lemonade stand
  10. paint faces
  11. tie-dye
  12. turn on the sprinkler
  13. go on a nature hike
  14. ride bikes to a nearby park
  15. go to a different park than usual
  16. bake and decorate cupcakes
  17. have an ice cream sundae party
  18. call a few friends and host a kickball game at a local baseball field (check to make sure it’s open to the public)
  19. go fishing in a nearby stream, pond or lake
  20. Make a movie or write a play
  21. create “happy day cards” for a local senior center
  22. weed the garden
  23. clean the closets (we host a cleanest closet contest amongst our kids each season)
  24. build a fort (inside or outside–or one that goes inside to outside)
  25. Do a few easy kitchen science experiments

Is your kid ready for sleepovers?

Is your child ready for a sleepover?


It’s not like there’s a magical age that a child becomes ready for sleepovers. Just like so many things in life, every child becomes ready at the time he or she is, well, ready. There are, however, a few things to do to help determine whether your child is ready to accept that first magical invitation.

Does he sleep walk or have many nightmares?

While sleep walking and sleep talking do become less as children get older, some parents are very concerned about their child walking or talking through the night at a sleepover. Just because your child walks or talks in her sleep occasionally doesn’t mean you can’t schedule a sleepover, but it is definitely something to bring to the attention of the hosting parents upon invitation.

The same goes with nightmares. As most adults know, nightmares continue to occur through adulthood, but frequent nightmares are often of concern to parents of young children heading to a sleepover. Again, just because your child has frequent nightmares doesn’t disqualify your child from a sleepover event, but you should definitely talk to the host parent.

Does he still wet the bed?

Some kids are wet at night because they’re deep sleepers and their bodies don’t alert them to wake on their own, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. While, bed wetting makes it a bit more difficult to schedule a sleepover, it doesn’t have to not happen. There are plenty of alternative underpants for bedtime for kids. I recommend talking about this with your child first and reminding him that he can keep his bed-wetting a secret within your family, but that he’ll still need to bring the underpants with him.

If your child continues to be wet at night, talk, in confidence, with the hosting parent before the sleepover and ask him or her to limit the amount of drinks before bedtime as well as to remind all the children to go to the bathroom one more time before lights out.

Has he shown interest in a sleepover?

If your child is completely disinterested, don’t push it. Some kids know that they really aren’t ready, even when they seem completely mature and ready for a sleepover. There could be dozens of thoughts and concerns cycling his mind that he isn’t ready to discuss with you, and there’s no need to push it. Hold off and wait until your child is asking for a sleepover because he, more than anyone, will know when he is ready.

Schedule a tester sleepover

Scheduling a test is particularly helpful if you have a neighbor with kids about the same age. Suggest to a friend that you test each other’s kids for sleepover readiness by either trading (I’ll take your youngest, you take my oldest and all 4 kids can get a sleep over!) or switching weeks (you take my kid this Friday, I’ll take your kids next Friday.) Because the kids will be at a familiar place with familiar adults, they’re likely to feel more comfortable. And, if they need to go home because they’re not yet ready, it’s easy to call and pick up.

Once they make it through the test, you’ll have a strong idea as to whether your child is ready for a sleepover elsewhere, and so will your child.

Is there a  health condition that makes it difficult for your child to sleepover?

One of my son’s best friend’s is diabetic and has to have his blood-sugar levels checked in while sleeping each night. His parents feel better about having him sleep at their home so that they can check. Rightly so. Instead of sleepovers, he’ll come over for dinner and a movie, and his parents will pick him up at lights out so that he can be a part of the fun until bedtime.

How to decline a sleepover

If your child has been invited and isn’t ready, you can always suggest that you host instead, or that your child comes over for dinner and is picked up at lights-out time. Parents could even drive the child back over for breakfast the next morning.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Summer Fun Learning Games For The Pool

funonadime.net pool fun games

When summer arrives in Arizona, “Pool Time” is a must to cool off. And of course, my kiddos love any excuse to play a game and even more so when they are in the pool. We discovered that with a stack of foam letters and numbers, there are a lot of fun games to play and as a bonus, it was easy to give them an educational twist without them even knowing it!

What You Need:

  • Foam letters (any size)
  • Foam numbers
  • Frisbee, kick board or something to hold foam pieces on (optional)

Game Ideas:

The kiddos figured out that using something like a frisbee was an easy way to gather the foam letters and organize them while playing the games.


Preschool Age Games (and older)

Alphabetic and Numerical Order: Have your child find each letter or number in order. We found this easiest for our preschooler by keeping the letters in a smaller area.

pool games for kids

Letter Sound Shout Out: Call out a letter sound and have your child find it

Sort by Color: Practice colors by shouting out certain colors and having your child bring the color to you or sort on their frisbee.

funonadime.net preschool learning

Counting: This does not necessarily need foam numbers. If you have them, sort numbers in order. If you do not have foam numbers, constantly count when you are about to do something. My 18 month old is learning how to count to 10 simply because we use it when she jumps into the pool and she will count with us.

Variations for Older Children (Kindergarten+)

Letter Recognition: Scatter the letters and tell your child to find certain letters.

funonadime.net pool fun games

Listen Carefully: “When I call out the letter H jump in the pool.” My kiddos always love a challenge. You can also treat this like Shark and Minnos but with letters and numbers

Practice spelling and sounding out words: We had many variations of this game and they loved them all. “Find the letters for the word CAT. Now replace the C with a B. What does that spell?” For older children you can have them find their own words and sound them out.

Advanced Letter and Number Scatter: This can be fun with one child or multiple children. Scatter the foam letters/numbers all over the pool.  Call out a letter/number or multiple numbers and see who can get it first.

I am a firm believer that just because it’s summer time, it does not mean the learning has to stop. These little games are easy to play and adjust to each child’s abilities AND the kiddos have so much fun getting cooled off, too!