5 Simple Valentine's Day Crafts for Kids

My boys love Valentine's Day, and over the years we have made many adorable Valentine's Day crafts.  Today, I am sharing 5 of my favorite simple Valentine's Day crafts for kids.

Click on the links for full tutorials.

1)  Love bugs - These adorable love bugs are made from yarn scraps and recycled egg cartons... and they couldn't be any cuter.

2)  Heart people - All you need to make these sweet heart people is some construction paper, googly eyes, glue, scissors, and a little imagination.

3)  Kiss countdown - With a few supplies from the dollar store, the countdown to Valentine's Day can be just as fun as the day itself.  

4)  Babyfood jar tealight holders - A little tissue paper and Mod Podge can transform an ordinary jar into extraordinary Valentine's Day decor.

5)  Recycled heart crayons - It couldn't be easier to recycle broken crayons into super-fun heart crayons.  Little ones will love the chunky feel and rainbow colors. 

Do you have a favorite Valentine's Day crafts?  Let me know if you give one of these ideas a try.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS... you might also want to check out these fun posts... click on the links for all the fun details.

Unique Valentines for kids

Simple Valentine's Day treats

Double Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

Some days you just need a double dose of chocolate in order to make it to bedtime.  Am I right?  If you ever find yourself in need of a chocolatey "pick me up", this is the perfect recipe for you... double chocolate cake mix cookies.

My version of these easy to make chocolate cookies is adapted from one I found here.

You'll need:
1 (8oz) block of cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 egg
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1 box Duncan Hines extra moist chocolate fudge cake mix (or another high quality cake mix)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Then, beat in the egg, the vanilla, and the cake mix.
3)  Use a wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate chips.
4)  Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
5)  Scoop tablespoons of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Trust me... if you are a chocolate lover, you will not be disappointed by these soft and delicious cookies.  They are perfect with a glass of milk!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Top 10 Picture Books for Kids

For the last several months, my four year old and I have been working our way through our local library's list of their top 100 picture books for kids, and this weekend we completed it.  So today, I thought I would share my boys favourite books. Our top 10 picture books are...

1)  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? -- by Bill Martin  (This simple book, with its fun colors and rhyming words, has always been a favourite in our house.)

2)  Corduroy -- by Don Freeman  (My mom gave me this book several years ago, and I have read it to my boys many times.  What's not to love about a story about an adorable bear finding a home?)

3)  Goodnight Moon -- by Margaret Wise Brown  (This is the perfect bedtime book.  I know it by heart, and my boys still love looking at all the detailed pictures.)

4)  Green Eggs and Ham -- by Dr. Seuss  (I am a sucker for the fun, rhyming style of Dr.Seuss books, and my boys love the silliness they contain.)

5)  Guess How Much I Love You -- by Sam McBratney  (This is another bedtime staple in our house, and every time I read it, I have the perfect excuse to remind my boys just how much I love them.)

6)  If you Give a Mouse a Cookie -- by Laura Joffe Numeroff  (This book always makes me smile, and my boys love it too.  It's silly, fun, and great to read with a cookie and a glass of milk.)

7)  Moo, Baa, La La La -- Sandra Boynton  (I adore Sandra Boynton books.  The illustrations are adorable, and the words are like song lyrics.  I know most of our Sandra Boynton books by heart.)

8)  The Paper Bag Princess -- by Robert Munsch  (This is a great book, with a fantastic message about not judging a book by its cover.  Robert Muncsh is a wonderful writer, and we have many of his books in our collection.)

9)  Press Here -- by Herve Tullet  (This book is totally original, and my boys love it.  It is interactive, and very clever.  Trust me.... you'll want to check out this one!)

10)The Very Hungry Caterpillar -- by Eric Carle  (The artwork in this book makes it a "must have" for any child.  I have definitely read this one more times than I can count!)

Have you read all the picture books on this list?  Do you have a favorite?

Happy Family Literacy Day!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

*PS (I have included affiliate links in this post.  You can click on the links to read more about the books, and if you decide to place an order, you will be supporting me and this blog.  Thanks so much!)

Simple Family Games Day

Yesterday, we had snow day, so I let my boys decide how they wanted to spend their day at home.  They decided we should have a special "Games Day".

Of course, we needed a special snack, so we made a domino cake.  We started with a rectangle cake, frosted the cake with chocolate icing, and added some white Oreo cookies.

Then, we gathered a few of our favorite games.  The boys chose Connect Four, Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Skipbo.

Finally, we did some simple decorating.  We taped some playing cards to the windows, and we put our Twister mat on the table as a tablecloth.  Cute, right?

I didn't go to a lot of work, but a few special touches made the day extra fun for my boys.  We had a fantastic "Family Games Day".

What is your favorite game to play with your family?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Harry Potter Valentine

As many of you know, my boys (and I) are huge Harry Potter fans, so it is no surprise that I was asked to come up with a Harry Potter Valentine.  I decided to use a variation of the Star Wars Valentine that we did last year.  This year, instead of using a glow stick as a light saber, I used a glow stick as a magic wand.

To make this Valentine, I took a picture of my son dressed as Harry Potter with his hand sticking out in front of him, and I added a Valentine's Day greeting using Picmonkey.com.  Then, I cut a slit above and below his fist, and I inserted a glow stick.

Didn't it turn out cute?  My four year old is excited to share his Harry Potter Valentine with his friends at preschool.

What kind of Valentines are you handing out this year?

Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)

15 SIMPLE Ways to Get Organized

There is something about January that makes me want to get organized, but like a lot of busy moms, I need "easy" solutions I can implement.  Today I am sharing 15 simple ways to get organized.

Click on the links (below) for more details.

1)  Stuffie Storage - Stuff those stuffed animals into a bean bag chair cover for easy "out of sight" storage.

2)  DIY Toy Bin Labels - Make sure there is a place for everything so kids can easily put away their own toys.

3)  Artwork Storage Solutions - Manage the artwork avalanche with a few simple storage solutions.

4)  Ready to Go Bags - Make getting out the door easier with "ready to go" bags for after school activities.

5)  Makeshift Mudroom - If you don't have a mudroom, you can use hooks and dollar store baskets to get the "coat and shoe clutter" under control.

6)  DIY Book Nook - Organize books so they are easy to find... and easy to put away.

7)  Quick Grab Hat and Mitten Baskets - Make getting out the door a breeze by using dollar store baskets to organize hats and mitts.

8)  Tips for Cleaning out a Cupboard - Tackle one cupboard at a time using these three simple steps to an organized cupboard.

9)  Organize Snacks - Save time and money by buying in bulk, getting rid of boxes, and storing snacks in easy to access containers.

10)  Backpack Hooks - Manage after-school chaos by getting backpacks off the floor and out of the way.

11)  Kid Clothing Labels - Safe time shopping for new items by hanging on to the ones you have already purchased.  {You can support me and this blog by purchasing labels here... www.OliversLabels.com/EastCoastMommy.}

12)  Cook in Batches - Make meal time easier by getting organized, and planning ahead.

13)  Use Jars for Touch up Paint - Make paint touch ups easy by storing leftover paint in dollar store jars.

14) Containers for Cupcake Liners - Dollar store jars make perfect places to store your collection of cupcake liners.

15) Make Ahead Lunch Box Treats - Bake a big batch of treats, wrap them individually, and stick them in the freezer.  You'll always have a freshly baked sweet treat for your little one's lunch box.

All of these tips are easy and effective, and I have found them very helpful in getting my home organized.  What's your best "get organized" tip?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Bonus: Fold your clothes like this....

No more digging for clothes because you can see everything at a glance. It saves space too! :-)

3 {PUNNY} Valentines for kids

My boys love giving out unique Valentine's, and each year I like to come up with new ideas for them.  This year, I came up with three "punny" photo Valentine options.

To make these adorable photo Valentines, you need to take a photo of your child standing in front of a dollar store tablecloth background.  Have the child stand with their fist out, so you can insert a fun object once you have the cards printed.

I added fun sayings to the pictures using Picmonkey.com, but you could use any photo editing software.

Here are the puns I came up with:

1)  You're #1 in my Book (which includes a dollar store bookmark)

2)  You BLOW ME AWAY with your awesomeness (which includes a heart-shaped balloon from the dollar store)

3)  I am CRAZY about you! (which includes a "crazy" straw from the dollar store)

Don't you just love them? Which one is your favorite?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Beary Good Friend Valentine

This is a perfect Valentine for busy moms to put together for their little ones.  It's unique, easy, and inexpensive.

Just download the adorable "I am BEARY happy to have a friend like you." tag, send it for one hour processing, cut the photo into three tags, and staple the tags onto Bear Paw Cookies or Teddybear Crackers.  Cute, right? 

(You can download the 4X6 tags here, or just right-click and save the photo above.)

Have you started thinking about Valentine's Day yet?  I love
planning ahead so that there isn't a mad scramble on February 13!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Toilet Roll Snow Globe

When it's too cold to go outside, there is still a lot of winter fun to be had.  Why not bring a little winter indoors with this adorable toilet roll snow globe?

If you are interested in making this adorable toilet roll snow globe, I am shared the full tutorial at CBC kids, and you can find it here.

Stay warm!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Harry Potter Spell Books and Quills {with free printables}

Today I am excited to share another great DIY project from my son's Harry Potter party.  I made every guest their very own Harry Potter spell book and quill.  The kids LOVED them, and I was really pleased with how they turned out.

I started with inexpensive black duotang folders, and then I added some fun pages, including:

  • a cover page that said, "This Book Belongs to:", which allowed all the kids to add their names to their books.  I printed the intro page on some paper I found at the dollar store to add some color to the book without spending a lot of money on color printing.  

And, of course, little wizards need their own quills, so I used hot glue to attach feathers to ball point pens.  Cute, right?

These Harry Potter spell books were definitely one of the most loved elements of my son's 8th birthday party.  The kids even started making up their own spells and writing them in their books.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the "automatically clean up the mess from the party" spell to work.  Maybe next time!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (Find more DIY Harry Potter Party details here.)

*Enjoy my printables, but (as always), they are for personal use only.  I am providing them for free, and they are not meant for resale or for any profit-making endeavour.  

Also, please feel free to share this post, but do not link directly to the download.  Thank you!

Baked Oatmeal... and the fantastic new product that helped me clean up

Last weekend I made baked oatmeal, and when I was done (like always), I threw all my dishes in my dishwasher without rinsing them.  My baked oatmeal was delicious, and my clean up was super-easy.

Want the recipe and the secret to my easy clean up?

First, here's the recipe for Maple Brown Sugar Baked Oatmeal:
(inspired by the recipe I found here)

1/2 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup 1% milk
3 cups quick oats (or the old fashioned kind for a chewier texture)
1 tsp salt

1)  Mix butter, eggs, brown sugar and maple syrup.
2)  Add baking powder, cinnamon, milk, oats, and salt.
3)  Bake in a greased 9X11 pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
4)  Serve warm with milk (and a little brown sugar or fruit, if desired).

Now for my clean-up secret:  I used the new Finish® Power & Free™ dishwashing tabs.

(Quantum®) Finish® Power & Free™ uses Hydrogen Peroxide Action™, which combines water and active oxygen to give you the unbeatable clean and shine you’ve come to expect from your dishwashing detergent with less harsh chemicals than ever before. No compromise needed and the same great performance.  I have always loved the Finish® Power & Free™ line-up of products (Quantum®, Powerball®, and Jet-Dry®), and now I am really excited to know that I can get the same sparkling clean with less chemicals. 

And... it's the perfect time to give the new tabs a try because you can get a FREE sample on the Finish Facebook Page (while supplies last).

If you try the recipe or the detergent, let me know what you think.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure – I am participating in the Finish® Power & Free™ Blogger Campaign on behalf of Finish®. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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