Simple Backyard Water Park

The boys and I are finishing up our summer checklist, and a couple of days ago we had a fantastic day with our simple backyard water park.

This is a simple idea, but it is guaranteed to please on a hot summer day.  Just use whatever you have to create some "water stations".  In the past we have used sponges, spray bottles, sprinklers, kiddie pools, water balloons, etc...

Here's what we did this year:

I filled 50 water balloons.  They played water balloon catch, they played "soldiers" with water balloon "bombs", and they played water balloon batting practice.

We made homemade bubbles (12 cups of water, 2 cups of dishwashing liquid, and 1 cup of light corn syrup).

We had a huge water fight.

And we played with a giant spiderman slip and slide that I bought on clearance at the end of summer last year.

The boys played with their water park all afternoon, and I think it was a great way to take advantage of one of the last hot summer days.  Have you ever created a simple backyard water park with your little ones?  What station did they like the best?

Gina Bell (aka East CoastMommy)

First Day of School Class Treats {free printable tags}

My boys are heading back to school soon, and in keeping with tradition, they will be bringing a little treat for their classmates on the first day of school.  This year, all three of my boys are taking little bags of goldfish with an adorable tag that says, "O-FISH-ally wishing you a fantastic first day of school!" 

Isn't it cute?  You can download a 4X6 version of the tag I designed by right clicking on the picture below, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular photo. (There are three tags on each sheet.)

Once the tags are printed, cut each photo into three tags, and staple a tag to the top of each bag.  

Don't you just love how sweet and simple this idea is?  My boys are really excited about sharing these treats with their little friends.

Do your kids like to bring a class treat on the first day of school or do you have a different first day of school tradition?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Simplifying Daily Clean Up

I recently received a new Orbit Clean Dishwasher from Frigidaire, and the company asked me to write about how I use my dishwasher to simplify the daily clean up in my home.  With three busy boys, keeping up with housework can be a challenge, but I have a few tips that help me keep things (somewhat) under control.  Here are 5 Tips (I use) for Simplifying Daily Cleanup:

1)  Don't let dishes and laundry pile up - Put dishes in the dishwasher after every meal, and make sure the kids learn to put their dirty clothes in the hamper as soon as they take them off.  It is important to stay on top of dishes and laundry so that they don't become overwhelming.

2)  Sweep after every meal - My boys have trouble eating over their plates, so I try to quickly sweep my kitchen after every meal... before my boys can track crumbs through the rest of the house.

3)  Make sure everything has a place - It can be challenging, but I try to make sure everything has a place.  If every coat has a hook, it is less likely to end up on the floor.  (e.g. You can check out my "Makeshift Mudroom" here.)

4)  Get the kids to help - Make it simple for kids to help by teaching them where things go.  In our house, we have labelled toy bins, so it is easy for my boys to find things and put them away when they have finished.  (You can check out my "Toy Storage Solution" here.)

5)  Do a little every day - There is nothing worse than a big weekend clean up, so try and do a little every day.  "Wing it" (like I do) or set up a little schedule.  (e.g. Clean the toilets on Mondays, dust half the rooms on Tuesdays, dust the rest of the house on Wednesdays, etc...)  Doing 15 minutes each day keeps things under control.

As you can imagine, a dishwasher is a valuable appliance in my house, and my new Orbit Clean Dishwasher from Frigidaire has all the features I need to keep up with the mess created by my busy boys. I need clean dishes that I don't need to rinse before washing them, and I don't need to dry after the dishwasher has stopped, and my new dishwasher meets this "must have" criteria.
I also like the fact that my new dishwasher easily fits all of my dishes because of the adjustable top rack -- and it even has a special spot for my wine glasses and coffee pot!

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to managing daily clean up?  Do you have any tips to share?  I can use all the help I can get!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Frigidaire Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

11 Tips for Preparing Kids for Starting School

My youngest son is starting school for the first time in September, so I thought it was a good time to share some tips to help parents prepare their kids for starting school. Some of these tips are based on my own experience (as a mom), and others came from some great teachers I know.

Here are 11 great ways to prepare kids for the transition to "big school":

1)  Read books to your child so that they see reading as a source of enjoyment.  In preparation for school, you can choose some books with a "starting school" theme.  Our two favorites are: The Kissing Hand and Llama Llama Loves his Mama.

2)  Have your child practice printing his/her name with an uppercase letter as the first letter, followed by lowercase letters.  Also, practice recognizing the other letters of the alphabet.  While you are reading to your child, point out letters, and have them identify them.

3)  Teach your child to go to the bathroom on their own.  Take them to a public washroom, and have them do everything themselves.  Teach them how to lock and unlock a stall door, use soap, get paper towel from a towel dispenser, unbutton and button their own pants, and wipe their own bum.

4)  Practice getting dressed.  Practice buttons and zippers, and if they can't tie, buy velcro sneakers.

5)  Think about lunches.  Have your child practice opening containers without help, let them know how long they will have to eat, practice good handwashing and eating out of the lunchbox (not off the desk), show them how to pack things up properly after they have finished eating, and talk about healthy meal options for them.  

Also, don't be worried if the lunch box comes home full at first. Sometimes lunch at school can be overwhelming and takes getting used to. Encourage your kids to eat their lunch at school, but if it comes home, they can finish it as an after school snack.

6) Talk about what will happen.  Before the big day, talk about what will happen... e.g. you'll take the bus, you'll have your own desk, you'll eat lunch in the cafeteria, you'll play outside after lunch, etc...  It can also be helpful to tour the school and visit the playground before the first day.

7)  Label everything.  Your child will lose some of their belongings, and labels will help you get them back.  (You can support my blog by purchasing labels through my affiliate link.  I recommend the School Pack. Thank you!)

8)  Start traditions.  The first day of "big school" is the perfect time to start first day of school traditions.  You can read about our families first day of school traditions here.

9)  Get up early on the first day, and make sure clothes and lunches are taken care of the night before.  Being organized will help ensure that the child doesn't feel rushed, and this will eleviate unnecessary stress on the first day.  It might even be worth a "first day run through" the day before.

10)  Keep the lines of communications open.  Often children are tired after school, and this makes them reluctant to talk about their day.  I find that it helps if I ask specific questions after school.  e.g. Who did you play with at recess?  Who did you play with at lunch time?  What did you do when you played outside?  Did you make any crafts today?  What was your favorite part of the day?  Were you a good listener today? What was the worst part of your day, etc.....

11)  Empty back packs and do homework as soon as you get home from school (if possible).  This is a great habit to get into... and the sooner the better.

What is your best tip for moms and dads that have little ones heading to school for the first time?  Did it make my list?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

You might also like these school lunch HACKS.

Tips for Teaching Kids about Giving Back

Last weekend, my boys hosted a yard sale and lemonade stand with 100% of the proceeds going to Cystic Fibrosis.  They collected old toys, made signs, baked cookies, and waited on customers, and they raised $264.35.  It was a proud mommy moment for me.

When it comes to teaching kids about giving back, here are some tips I have found helpful:

1)  Let the kids pick a charity or cause that is meaningful to them.  (My boys have a little cousin with Cystic Fibrosis, so it makes them feel good knowing that they are helping make him better.)

2)  Let the kids decide what to do.  (My boys have organized Christmas parties, sold toys, and worked lemonade stands.)

3)  Let the kids do the work.  (They will feel more connected to the act of giving, if they are doing the work themselves.)

Do you have any tips for teaching kids about giving back?  Feel free to share them below.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears Back to School Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Back to School Countdown Chain

Back to school is around the corner, so I wanted share this back to school countdown chain I made with my boys.  Each chain link contains a fun activity we can do together.

Isn't it cute? I love how my boys' adorable faces are peeking out of the windows of the bus.

I am sharing the full step by step tutorial over at CBC Parents today.  Pop on over and check it out.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Cinnamon Sugar Campfire Snack

I have found the best campfire snack... seriously. The boys and I tried it out last weekend (with our new backyard fire pit), and it turned out fantastic! If you like cinnamon, you are going to love this cinnamon sugar campfire snack

To make this great alternative to s'mores, you'll need: a marshmallow roasting fork, tin foil, canned biscuit dough, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Then, just follow these simple directions:

1) Cover a roasting fork with tin foil.
2) Stretch out a piece of biscuit dough, and wrap it around the roasting fork.
3) Spread some butter over the dough.
4) Sprinkle both sides with a cinnamon/sugar mixture (1/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 tbsp cinnamon)
5) Roast over a very hot fire as close to the heat source as possible until it is no longer "doughy". 
6) Allow to cool slightly, and then enjoy!

This is such a delicious alternative to roasting marshmallows.  If you give this cinnamon sugar campfire snack a try, let me know what you think.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

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