The Importance of Parks... and a chance to win $25,000

I love parks!  I have fond memories of my parents taking me and my sisters to the park as children, and now I enjoy taking my own boys.  Doesn't every mom cherish the memory of the first time their little one experienced the thrill of a baby swing?

When I was little, there was a simple park down the street from my house.  It was pretty basic... a couple swings, a slide, some monkey bars, and a see-saw.  It wasn't elaborate, but I spent a lot of happy times there hanging out with my sisters and the other children from the neighbourhood.  The park has been upgraded since I was a child, and now my boys enjoy it with their cousins when we visit my parents at my childhood home.

Kraft understands that parks bring people together and promote an active lifestyle, and they want to give you the chance to win $25,000 to create something new or make something better in your community – oh, and a broadcast with TSN!  You only have until June 7th to make your nomination, so now is the time to head on over the Kraft website, join their facebook page, and nominate your community for a chance to win.

Good luck!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure – I am participating in the Kraft Celebration Tour Blogger Campaign. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Cereal Box Treat Holder

Don't you just love when something old is up-cycled into something new?  Check out the cereal box I turned into an adorable treat holder.

I think it is perfect for family movie night or a birthday party.  It can hold ice cream cones, and paper cones filled with popcorn or other treats.  Cute, right?

Here's how you can make one:

1) Make a template out of the side of a cereal box by dividing it into eight sections and cutting small holes in the centre of each rectangle.
2) Cover the sides of a cereal box with colored duct tape.  (Not the box you used to create the template.)
3) Use Mod Podge to glue a piece of scrapbook paper to the top of the cereal box.  Allow to dry completely, and then trim it as needed.
4) Use the template and an X-acto knife to cut holes in the top of the box.
5) Seal with a coat of Mod Podge.

I'd love to hear your "up-cycle" ideas/tips.  Please share them in the comments below.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Quick Tip Tuesday #1 - easy planting activity

I love easy and inexpensive projects and activities, so I decided to start a new feature on my blog... "Quick Tip Tuesday".  Every Tuesday, I will share a quick tip, activity or idea.  So... here is my first one.

Every child likes to watch things grow, and peas are a great choice for little ones - no green thumb required.  Throw some potting soil into a container, and pop in a pea seed (or two).  Give it some sun and water, and watch it grow.  Easy Peasy!  :-)

What do you think of this idea?  Are you looking forward to the next "Quick Tip Tuesday"?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Crafting with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Crafting with toddlers and preschoolers can be a lot of fun, and being creative is great for their development and self-esteem.  Here are 5 tips for stress-free crafting with little ones.

1)  Be Prepared - Most toddlers have a very short attention span for crafting, so having everything laid out in advance is always very helpful.  (e.g. If the child is too young to use scissors and there is cutting involved, cut out the pieces in advance.)

2)  Stock the Craft Cupboard -  Always have craft supplies on hand so you are ready to go when the little ones get the urge to be creative.  Some of my favorite supplies to keep on hand are:  googly eyes, glue, colored paper, scissors, crayons, markers, paint, pom poms, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, and stickers.  (I also like to have q-tips and dixie cups on hand to help little ones apply glue more easily.)

3)  Keep it Simple - Toddlers and preschoolers don't want to sit for long periods of time making intricate crafts.  Try to make things that are quick, easy, and interesting.  (Click here for a fun frog face craft to get you started.)

4)  Minimize Mess - Some days busy moms and dads don't have the time (or patience) to clean up big craft messes.  Make clean up easy by covering the craft surface with a plastic tablecloth, use aprons to protect the children's clothing, and supervise use of super-messy supplies... like glitter.  (Buying washable crayons, markers, and paint is also a great idea.)

5)  Go Freestyle - Sometimes the best crafts are the ones that children do without any help.  Set out some paper and crayons, and let the little ones scribble out a masterpiece.  It isn't about the final product... it's about the process of being creative.

What is your best toddler/preschooler crafting tip?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You can find hundreds of ideas for crafting with toddlers and preschoolers here.

A Little Cuteness to Brighten your Day... and a fun contest from Fisher-Price

Is there anything cuter than a smiling, happy baby?  Isn't a baby giggle the best sound in the whole world?  (You can find the greatest {totally cute} video of my son's "baby laugh" here.)

my youngest son's adorable baby grin

I am also a big fan of big toothless grins, aren't you?  Babies just seem to smile with their whole face.

Fisher-Price understands that a baby's first few smiles, giggles and whole-hearted belly laughs are the ones we don’t ever want to forget, and they have launched a fun new Laugh & Learn site ( > Brands > Laugh & Learn) that offers webisodes, fun games and activities.

And... to celebrate the launch of this new site, Fisher-Price will be hosting an AMAZING new contest called the Best Little Laugh This contest will be celebrating all those insanely-cute, over-the-top-adorable smiles, giggles and laughs.  Sound fun?  The contest runs from May 20, 2013 to July 15, 2013 and is open to Canadian Residents.  Get the photos and videos of your little ones ready, and head over to the Fisher-Price site to enter.  You can find all the details here.
Good luck!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog {of course} are my 100% my own.

DIY Hockey Artwork

I like easy and inexpensive DIY projects, so I am loving the cute $5 artwork I put together for my boys' playroom.

I found two frames (with two spots for 4x6 pictures) in a discount bin for $4 each.

Then, I used to create blank backgrounds and quotes for each frame.  The quotes are from a couple of the greatest hockey players of all time, and the blank pictures make perfect backgrounds for the matching hockey cards.

I am really pleased with how they turned out, and my boys are thrilled.

Do you have any hockey fans in your house?  This would work well for baseball or football cards too.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

** If you haven't already "liked" me on facebook, I would love to have you join me here.

ECM Kids' Craft Club - #15 {Bird Bookmark}

Welcome to the 15th edition of the ECM Kids' Craft Club {an easy & inexpensive way for kids to have fun crafting and experience the excitement of getting their very own mail}.  If you want to join the club, you can find more info here.  For everyone who is already a member... let's get started on this month's craft.  This month we are making an adorable little birdie bookmark!

Here's the "how to":

1)  Cut out the template for the body, and color the blank side.

2)  Use the template to cut a beak out of the yellow cardstock included in the kit.

3)  Glue the body, beak, googly eye, and heart-shaped wing into place.

4)  Draw some feet, and tie ribbon to the top.

That's it!  I hope you enjoyed this craft, and I hope you use it with your favorite books.  {Don't forget to leave me a comment, or send me an email.  Your comments help me improve the club, and I love hearing from you.} 

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Don't forget... Assist young children when using scissors, and be careful of the small parts included with this kit, as they can be a choking hazard for children under three".)

DIY Toy Bin Labels

Yesterday I posted about my Spring Cleaning Plan, and I received a lot of questions about my new storage bins.  I was going to post about them next week; however, given all the interest, I thought I would do it sooner rather than later.  :-)

I bought two storage units (with cloth baskets) at Costco.  (The units were $149 each... including the bins.)  Then, I sorted all the boys' toys into the 16 bins and took pictures of the contents of each bin. (We have bins for: hockey players, balls, kitchen stuff, art supplies, trucks, lego, hockey/pokemon cards, musical instruments, people, pirate stuff, hockey gear, Star Wars toys, cars, farm stuff, hockey jerseys, and dress up clothes.)

I had the pictures printed in (wallet size), and I cut some scrapbook paper just larger than the pictures.  I used double sided tape to attach the pictures to the cards, and I had the 16 labels laminated at an office supply store.

Then, I attached the labels to the bins using double sided mounting squares.

Now there is a place for everything in my boys' playroom.  They can easily find their toys, and they can easily put their toys away (in the right spots) when they are finished with them.

I am loving my bins and labels!  What is your playroom storage solution?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

** If you haven't already "liked" me on facebook, I would love to have you join me here.

Spring Cleaning Plan

When it comes to Spring Cleaning, I like to have a plan.  There is something about a plan that makes a huge task seem more "doable" and less overwhelming, don't you agree?  Here are the steps I follow to survive Spring Cleaning:

You can find out more info on my bins here.

Step one - Get rid of the clutter.  Nothing makes me feel better than a big Spring purge.  Donate, dispose of, or sell anything you no longer use or need.  You'll be amazed at how good you will feel passing things on to people that can use them... and at how little you will miss the things you have gotten rid of. 

Depending on the age of your children, you can get them involved in this process too.  It can be difficult for little ones to let go of toys, so it may be helpful to dispose of their things in stages.  e.g. Pack away toys they haven’t played with lately, and put the box out of sight.  If they ask for a missing toy, dig it out for them, and after a month, donate or sell whatever is left in the box.

Step two - Organize your stuff.  Identify areas of your house that need organization, and tackle them one at a time.  Everything should have a place, and everyone (including the kids) should know where that place is.  Use shelves, bins, baskets, and labels.  Make sure to pack away anything that is out of season, and label it well so that it is easy to find when you need it again.

Step three - Clean.  Start by making a list of the things you want to clean, and check them off as you have time to do them.  Take your time, and don't get overwhelmed and stressed out.  When you have children, it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to keep things neat and tidy.  Do the best you can, and remember, some day you will miss those fingerprints on the patio doors.

I hope this list helps you to bring a little more order to your hectic life.  As busy moms, we can use all the help we can get.  :-) 

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Summer Checklist {with free printable}... 2013 edition

Every year my boys and I put together a Summer Checklist of 50 fun things we plan to do during the summer.  It has become one of our favorite family traditions, and I love sharing the {free printable} with my readers.  Here is our list for 2013!

You can download a free 8 x 10 jpeg here, and you can download a free pdf version here.  I have also included some helpful info and links below.

 1)  Celebrate Canada Day or July 4th
 2)  Watch fireworks or attend a parade
 3)  Have a teddy bear picnic {click link for more info}
 4)  Go to a splash pad or swim in a pool
 5)  Host a “half” sleepover  
{click link for more info}
 6)  Go to a farmer's market
 7)  Visit the library
 8)  Make homemade bubbles 
{click link for more info}
 9)  Go fishing or hiking
10) Have family movie night – outside 
{click link for more info}
11) Paint rocks
 {click link for more info}
12) Make paper airplanes
13) Plant something and watch it grow 
{click link for more info}
14) Visit a wildlife park, farm or zoo
15) Build a fort
16) Create a simple backyard water park {click link for more info}
17) Play baseball or soccer
18) Make ice cream 
{click link to see how easy it is to make ice cream in a bag}
19) Go for a bike ride
20) Play “Simon Says” or “Tag”
21) Spend time at a cottage, beach or park
22) Do a science experiment 
{click link for more info}
23) Learn a newjoke or magic trick 
{click link for more info}
24) Go geo-caching 
{click link for more info}
25) Make cookies {click link for our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe}
26) Play mini golf
27) See a play or visit a museum
28) Have a lemonade stand 
{click link for more info}
29) Try a new food
30) Have a Pirate Day 
{click link for more info}
31) Camp in the backyard 
{click link for more info}
32) Have a PJ day
33) Put on a puppet show
34) Make a summer reading list
 {click link for more info}
35) Build an obstacle course 
{click link for more info}
36) Have a dance party in the living room
37) Go on a scavenger hunt 
{click link for more info}
38) Craft a boat & float it down a river 
{click link for more info}
39) Have pancakes for supper
40) Play street hockey or hide-and-seek
41) Do a good deed
42) Play board games
43) Roast marshmallows and make smores
44) Write and mail a letter or postcard
45) Run in a race
46) Play with pool noodles 
{click link for more info}
47) Add your own
48) Add your own
49) Add your own
50) Have ice cream for supper! 
{click link for more info}

I hope you print out a copy of this list and play along with us this summer. What is the one "must do" item on your list each year?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

** If you haven't already "liked" me on facebook, I would love to have you join me here.

PS - You can find our 2012 list here and our 2011 list here.

{Simple} Mother's Day Card

Mother's Day is on Sunday, so I thought I would share a simple Mother's Day card idea with you.  It's a card and gift all in one!  Clever, right?

To make this Mother's Day Card, and {handmade} flower pen, just follow these simple steps:

1)  Take a piece of card stock, and fold it in half to make a card.

2)  Make a flower pen using the tutorial found here.

3)  Use an X-Acto knife or scissors to make slots in the card.

4)  Have the child write "I couldn't pick a better Mommy" on the front of the card.  Then, have him/her   decorate and sign the inside of the card.

5)  Insert the pen.

That's it!  Simple, cute, and practical.  Happy Mother's Day!  

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
** If you haven't already "liked" me on facebook, I would love to have you join me here.

Banana Muffins {with a cinnamon twist}

A couple of months ago, I shared my mom's {no fail} banana bread recipe.  I have been making this recipe for years, but I have never tried using it to make banana muffins... until now. I added a streusel topping, and now I'm obsessed!

I am happy to say, the muffins turned out to be delicious.  I modified the recipe slightly and added a yummy cinnamon streusel topping.  

Here's the "how to":

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2)  Whisk together the following dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3)  Beat together:
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (and mashing bananas is a great job for little helpers)

4)  Mix wet and dry ingredients until combined, and scoop batter into lined muffin tins (about 3/4 full).

5)  Top each cupcake with approximately 1 tbsp of streusel mixture.  (3/4 cup light brown sugar, 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 cup cold butter… mixed together with a pastry blender).

6)  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Do you think you will give this recipe a try?  Let me know how they turn out.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disney Cupcakes

My boys and I love having special snacks while we enjoy our favorite shows/movies.  Recently, we came up with two adorable cupcakes designs -- Rapunzel's Chameleon (Pascal) Cupcakes and Mama Hook's Gold Doubloon Cupcakes.

Aren't they cute?  Here are the instructions:

Mama Hook's Gold Doubloon Cupcakes:
1)  Make your favorite white cupcakes.
2)  Cover each cupcake with blue icing (water).
3)  Add some graham cracker crumbs (sand).
4)  Top each cupcake with a Gold Doubloon (chocolate coin).

This is a perfect treat to enjoy while watching the Jack and the Never Land Pirates.  (One of our favorite shows!)

Rapunzel's Chameleon (Pascal) Cupcakes:
1)  Make your favorite white cupcakes.
2)  Cover each cupcake with green icing.
3)  For the eyes - use white chocolate candy melts and chocolate chips (with chocolate icing for the "glue").
4)  Use chocolate icing to draw a simple nose and mouth.
5)  Use green icing to pipe on eyebrows and the protruding part of its head.

Wouldn't this cute cupcake make the perfect movie snack while watching Disney's Tangled?  

My boys were super-excited about the tray of cupcakes they decorated themselves.

Which of the cupcakes is your favorite?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure:  I’m part of the Disney Junior Mom program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group... but (of course!), the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Stuffed Animal Storage

There is something about Spring that makes me want to get things organized, so I thought I would share this clever stuffed animal storage solution that I first saw here (at Come Together Kids) -- a bean bag chair cover filled with stuffies.  So clever!

I found my cover at the Dollar Store for only $3!  Then, I let my three year old fill it with stuffed animals.

It is a great storage solution, and a comfy place to cuddle up and read a book.  And it is great for sleeping too.  :-)

What is your biggest organizing challenge?  Maybe I can help.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Don't miss any of the fun....