Category Archives: Star Bloggers

How To Create A Great Morning Routine

back to school

It is back to school time everywhere and that means back to waking up early and morning routines. The hardest part for me is getting breakfast made quickly so we can get school started at a decent hour. To help organize myself this year I had my kids help make a list of all the breakfasts we like to eat. Here is what we came up with:

  • French Toast
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Blueberry muffins
  • Eggs with bread in the pan
  • Scrambled Eggs with toast
  • Sunny Side Up Eggs and toast
  • Egg Sandwiches
  • Cereal
  • Yogurt and fruit with granola
  • Egg burritos
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Homemade bread toast
  • English muffins
  • Banana Bread
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Oatmeal

As you can see most breakfast foods aren’t fast so I decided I needed a plan. What I came up with is I would make one batch of something that I could make in bulk on Sunday or Monday and they could eat it all week with some of the easier things. For example I would make up a bunch of pancakes or waffles and then we could reheat them throughout the week. Making muffins or breads the night before also is a huge timesaver in the morning!

Here is our families favorite pancake recipe that I thought you would all enjoy!

Yummiest Pancakes Ever

The Yummiest Pancake recipe

I always double the recipe and it makes a ton!!

  • 2 C. Flour
  • 3 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 C. Milk
  • ¼ C. Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ C. Pancake Syrup

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk. Let rest a few minutes and then cook on a hot buttered griddle. Enjoy!!


Make Breakfast a Teaching Opportunity

As always, you can make this pancake recipe into a fun learning (or more like practice) activity as well by trying some alphabet pancakes with our Learning With Letter Pancakes. Or for a fun twist, create numbers or shapes and a little age appropriate math with your kiddos.

How to turn breakfast and pancakes into a learning activity

I would love to hear what ideas you have for helping make breakfast time fast and yummy!!

Back to School: Lunchbox Labels

lunch box labels

It’s time for kids to go back to school, and whether it’s their first year of school or not, it can take a while for kids to settle into their new routine – getting to know their teacher, making friends, being out in the playground, remembering to hand in papers. It can become a little overwhelming for them, but knowing that you are there supporting them and giving them a little boost during their day can go a long way. So today, I want to share some resources for lunch box labels and what you can put on them to make your child smile during the day.

What can you write on lunchbox labels?

  • a funny joke to make them smile – I got my joke on the image above from the National Geographic book, Just Joking 5 that has over 300 kid-friendly jokes inside.
  • a reminder – to turn in papers, or who will pick them up after school
  • good luck message – if they have a test, speaking in front of the class, singing in a concert, or anything they may be feeling nervous about
  • a love note – let them know you love them, that you want them to have a great day, or you that you packed them their favorite treat.

What kind of lunchbox labels can you use?

  • regular blank labels
  • sticky notes
  • free printables (see below for suggestions)
  • chalkboard labels – purchase them like I did from places such as Bright Star Kids where I purchased mine, or make your own with plain labels and chalkboard paint)
  • gift tags

Tip: If you put the chalkboard label on the lid, you can wipe it clean with a damp sponge.

Did you know you can purchase chalkboard pencils and markers? So now you don’t have to worry about trying to write on a small label with a thick piece of chalk.

Here are 5 awesome (and free) lunchbox label printables:

Back-to-School Lessons: Being Kind to the New Kid


Recently, I asked Facebook friends, “What are the things you do to prepare your kids for their first day of school?” I expected answers like get started on the back to school routine, buy a new lunch box, clean backpacks and get haircuts. But the first answer from a mom, Nicole, threw my entire purpose:

Boom! She said it. This mom shared the single most important thing parents can do to help their kids get ready for back to school: learn to be kind.

More than anything that first day, the lunch hour, the very first social experience of the new school year, is horrifying. For everyone. Lunch room horrors include being terrified about buying lunch, talking to the lunch lady and spilling a tray of hot mac and cheese. Students are scared of sitting in someone else’s seat and of eating wrong. And, most important, having no one to sit with.

I’m inspired to talk to my kids about being the kind-kid. Every day until school starts, and then after, I’m planning to discuss the beauty in making new friends and inviting new friends into their lives.

It’s really easy to be a returning student. Someone who knows everyone’s name and just what makes the crew work. It’s easy to sit down at the table and be surrounded by smiles of people who already know you.

Help your kids to seek out the one that no one knows, that no one is sitting with that first day or two at lunch. Chances are exceptional that that lonely person would have the best of ideas to add to your conversation, a great smile and become a fabulous friend.

The quotes in this post are from the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and if you and your older elementary or middle school aged kids haven’t read it yet, stop whatever you are reading and read it. It’s a short read, it’s a great discussion. It’s a life changer.

Gift Giving Ideas for Kids #unplugged

Battery Free Fun Gifts

When holidays and birthdays come around I have to field questions from every aunt, grandparent, babysitter and neighbor about what to get for the kids. Luckily my kids have lots of interests so we can get away so many things. They would ultimately choose gifts associated with gaming if it was left to them but would also be excited to receive any of the below gifts and ideas that I want to share.

Gift giving to kids that aren’t yours can be stressful. You want the child to not only appreciate the gift but to also really enjoy it. A gift that ends up in a re-gift or return pile is no fun. These fun and battery free ideas can make you the hit of the party.

Costumes-Dress -up can be the start of dreams for a bright future. Capes, masks and microphones can transform a simple bedroom into a stage or pool of hot lava.

Puzzles- Aim for a theme such as animals or trains that the child is already very interested in. Even the littlest fingers enjoy chunky wooden puzzles.

Blocks-Blocks come in all types of sizes, shapes and technical difficulty. Invest in a little engineer’s future with a set that fits their age and interests.

Board Games-Stick with classics such as Life or Sorry for years and years worth of use.

Arts & Crafts-Everyone has even the littlest creative bone in their body. Spark a new passion for painting, beading, paper-crafts or even sewing with a gift that will get their fingers and minds moving.

Food Play-Playing pretend restaurant or kitchen is one of the best past-times. Gift a set of realistic felt or wooden food or pots and pans to get their kitchen going with the next best meal.

Trains-A train-set is an instant magnet for children of all ages. Sets can be built out to extraordinary size and elaborate design to engage many children at once.

Outdoor Toys-Get them up and moving with a gift of classic toys such as a kite, basketball, jump rope, hula hoop and sidewalk chalk. No more excuses to be sitting in the house.

These are just a handful of ideas for getting your kids unplugged and playing something new or old. What kind of battery-free gifts do you like to gift to the children in your life.

Surviving Motion Sickness in the Car

Surviving Motion Sickness in the Car with Kids

This summer was spent in the car. We took lots of trips to the beach, parks, local attractions and even took a 12 drive to South Carolina and back. With each of these trips, whether it was short or long, we were faced with the likely possibility that two of our children were going to battle with with car sickness.

Car sickness or motion sickness is triggered when the motion sensors of the body, eyes, inner ear and extremities, aren’t agreeing with each other. The body then reacts with nausea, sweating, dizziness and vomiting.  Babies and younger children don’t tend to suffer from motion sickness, it tends to crop up in the toddler years

As a back seat passenger I often suffer from car sickness but over the years I’ve learned some tricks that I’ve passed onto my child to avoid car sickness.

Turn on the AC. A cool breeze on your child’s face prevents any strong odors from upsetting or irritating their stomach.  Keep the car prepared with a small blanket for chilly legs.

Eating right before hitting the road. Encourage a low fat, mild meal. This also helps reduce an upset stomach. Fruits, veggies and pasta are easier on the stomach than fat laden fast food or junky snacks. Keeping light snacks such as crackers and fruit on hand may help.

Ginger ale and candies help may help with nausea.  As long as it contains REAL ginger a cookie, candy or drink should really help with nausea. Stay about from items with just ginger flavoring.

Chose the road smoothly traveled. A bumpy ride or one that encounters lots of stop and go can add to your motion sickness. Stick to highways and long country roads with fewer stop signs and stop lights.

Focus on something on the horizon. Keep the reading and device playing to a minimum. The movement will only exacerbate the symptoms and lead to headaches and dizziness.  Look out the window at the farthest point like the horizon.

Talk to your doctor about medicines and over the counter remedies. There are choices of the pharmaceutical nature that could be of help. Talk with your doctor before administrating anything to yourself or your children.

Motion Sickness is no fun for anyone. While driivng if you or your child isn’t feeling well it’s best to pull over and remove yourself from the situation for a few moments.  Fresh air, cool water and a stretch can do wonders.  Resume your trip when the dizziness has passed. Of course arm yourself with car sickness bags IN the car if you aren’t able to make frequent stops or aren’t able to stop in enough time.

How to Set Screen Time Rules as a Family


My kids will tell you there should be an exclamation point at the end of this title. The way they use it, Screen time really does rule. They’d much prefer that we had no rules and allowed them on their game consoles, computers, tablets and iPods anytime they please.

But as a parent who is concerned about the amount of time they spend staring at their screens, I want to encourage a more balanced day with some time allotted for the screen, and other time for cooperative, physical and creative play.

But how do we balance it all? Last summer I initiated a program where the kids created their own balanced schedule. Their days were planned in 30-minute increments and, each Monday, they completed their weekly plan to include a pre-determined allotment of learning, creativity, screen time and more. As the school year approached, we shifted gears a bit, and scheduled just 90 minutes of balanced schedules each week.

But we quickly learned that with school taking up six and a half hours each day, followed by homework and after school activities, those 90 planned minutes were, sometimes, hard to fit in, so we looked to reassess and find new balance.

The school-year screen time rules last year worked for our family: each morning, as long as they were dressed for school and their rooms were (somewhat) clean, the kids could have screen time in the morning until 8 am. At 8, all screens were off (including mine) so that we could have breakfast and the kids could complete a “morning math” worksheet before school.

After school, if were weren’t immediately out the door for swim, baseball or soccer, the kids had creative or physical playtime (which left it really open-ended) along with snack time for about an hour. Following, we’d do homework and have dinner. On rainy days, we’d allow for screen time every other afternoon.

But tracking every-other rainy afternoon became a nuisance, so we tweaked the rules a bit, and the kids shocked me by accepting. Last winter, unless school was closed, we outlawed gaming screen time during the week. We still allowed for limited TV (sports competition and shows such as Wipeout). On the weekends during free time the kids were permitted to play on screens.

What’s important here isn’t how much time or how balanced we were. We didn’t come up with these rules based on some recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, or because Mary Marvelous Mom said to. We created our rules because they worked best for our family.

How does your family plan screen time? Do you have rules and expectations?

image: chomnancoffee at FreeDigitalPhotos

Exploring Sound With Children

Musical Bottles

Every time I get an empty glass bottle part of me thinks I should save it for some fun craft or cute decor. If you are like me, let’s have some fun with your collection and experiment with our kiddos with the sense of sound. We ended up having a lot more fun than I expected, so I plan on “experimenting” for a few more days. My kiddos loved it!

What You Need:

  • At least a few glass bottles, jars or cups
  • A stick (we went for a wood stick vs a metal utensil in case the kiddos hit them too hard)
  • Colored markers
  • Slips of paper or notecards
Musical Bottles

Experiment Away:

We discovered there are a variety things we can do.  I let the kiddos lead it and I’ll share what we did, but there is no wrong way to have fun! My original intent was to teach them more about music, but as we experimented I realized my kiddos still didn’t recognize the difference between low and high pitches. So , instead we focused on these ideas:

Pitch: High vs low

Fill the botles with a variety of levels of water and arrange them in order of pitch from low to high.

Musical Bottles Experimenting


Follow Patterns of Colors, Shapes or Numbers

Similar to reading sheet music, label each bottle with a different color, shape and/or number.Musical Bottles

Then create a pattern to follow and write it down or call it out. Start out with colors to make it easy and for older children you can make it more challenging by mixing all 3 types.

Musical Bottles

If you have the bottles labeled correctly and with the right amounts of water in each bottle, you can create real music…maybe something easy like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” We are working our way up to this and I know my kiddos will be super excited when we get to this point.

**I will note: I went through a dejunking phase last month, so I actually ended up borrowing these from a friend.

What music will you create with your children?

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: 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.

Diorama Ideas For Kids

diorama ideas for kids

Diorama’s are typically a three-dimensional representations of a scene, whether it be about a something that happened in history, a fictional topic, or a nature scene.

During the school years, the chance your child will need to make a diorama is quite high. The diorama project may be to re-create a scene from a book they are reading, or to capture an historical event for example.

Diorama’s are quite fun to construct and leave a lot of room for creativity and imagination, so get them started early with these tips:

Diorama ideas:

  • Nature – current weather, backyard, the ocean, a rainforest, the seasons, life cycles (ie caterpillar to butterfly), or re-create a photograph from a nature walk or vacation.
  • Historical – when dinosaurs roamed, the ice age, a shuttle launch, ancient Egypt or local history (ie first homes).
  • Fictional – super heroes, fairies, favorite movie, television or cartoon characters.
  • Holidays – make a diorama for each of your favorite holidays to display on the mantel or as a table centerpiece.

What you need to make a diorama:

  • Cardboard box, shoe box, or a tin
  • Dolls or figures – these can be plastic, paper, miniature figurines or dolls, even coloring pages can be used.
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Basic art supplies such as: markers, pencils, crayons, paint
  • Other supplies: think outside the box with items such as feathers, pom poms, fabric, felt, clay, or items from out in nature (rocks, sticks, dirt, sand etc),

Tip: If using paper dolls or cut-outs, add a blank space (a tab) underneath that you will fold under and glue to your box.

Reasons you might want to make a diorama:

  • A gift for a friend or relative – re-create a scene from a favorite event or activity with that person. These make lovely handmade father’s day and mother’s day gifts.
  • Three-dimensional scrapbook – if you’ve collected items on a vacation, special event, or outing, this is the perfect way to display that.
  • School project.
  • Science Fair project.
  • Just for fun.

My daughter made the diorama pictured on her own. While moving house she decided to unpack a box herself and then use that box along with some crafting supplies I had already unpacked to create her own diorama.

She used a variety of materials including pipe cleaners, wood pieces, a foam ball, crayons and paper.

What kind of diorama will you make?