As school time nears, the time is now to be preparing supplies for the school year. Last week, we took a look at ways to make the back-to-school budget stretch. One of the easiest ways to save money on supplies is to not actually have to purchase new ones but to re-use them.
Although this might be cause for some grumbling among the kids, you can easily turn those frowns upside down! All you’ll need to do is pull out the craft supplies and make an afternoon of fun out of re-decorating and re-vamping the supplies that are reusable. The transformed look will make the kids feel like the supplies are new again, and the creative touches will mean that they are unique and easy to identify as to who they belong to.
Here are some ways to salvage the old supplies and make them feel like new:
-Decorate with Washi Tape
If your kids are hooked on all of the super fun design varieties available of washi tape or duct tape, use the extra tape on the rolls that are laying around to create fun designs on school supplies. Is a three-ring binder in need of some extra support along the binding but is easily reusable? Add fun tape to achieve an exciting new look and create a practical fix at the same time. Create a new look on an old pencil box or bag. Wrap strips of tape around pens or mechanical pencils to make them new again. Most markers will look the same as everyone else so create a fun way to individualize them by decorating them with tape. Just be sure to not put tape on things that will go into a sharpener such as regular or colored pencils.
-Jazz up Backpacks with Patches and Fabric Paint
With some care, backpacks should be able to be used for more than one year. Because the kids won’t want to be the only ones with an “old” backpack, they can now be the ones with the cool and creative bag. Search through fabric scraps or clothing patches to decide what would add a cool look. Help your child sew these onto the backpack. Have the kids use fabric paint to label the backpack with their name and to add extra designs of flare. Consider a finishing touch of letting them buy a new keychain to go on the bag. It is sure to be a less expensive treat than a whole new backpack.
-Use a Variety of Craft Supplies
Don’t limit yourself to the ideas above. Let the kids be creative and inventive with whatever you have on hand whether it is glitter glue, stickers, pipe cleaners, or something else.
Guess what guys and girls?! I ventured out into having a "real" garden this year!
Historically speaking, I tend to have much more of a "black thumb" than a green one so I didn't want to tell you all before I was sure I could get at least one plant to survive the wrath of Jennie. More than my fair share of plants have seen their last day with me at the helm.
I'm happy to report that this year in Colorado a miracle happened and we received an abundance of rain, so I've managed to keep most things alive - with the exception of my snap peas and green beans - those bit the dust pretty early on in the season.
Judging by the size of my zucchini plant that has decided to dominate more than half of my garden, I'd say that I'm going to have a good amount of zucchini in just a few weeks here so I'm determined to make good use of all of it! In my quest to have a more healthy lifestyle in 2014 I've been working on incorporating more veggies into my diet - something that I've never been too great about.
Perhaps some of you are in the same boat as I am with wanting to incorporate more veggies into your meals or with having the blessing of an abundance of fresh garden produce to use up. Either way, here is a great Summer Squash Saute recipe that was passed down to me from my Mom. I made it for the first time this evening and it is so delicious - and to my surprise, very filling and savory!
Summer Squash Saute
2- Medium sized Zucchini Squash
2- Medium sized Yellow Squash
1- 8oz container of sliced fresh Mushrooms
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Italian seasoning to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
How to Make
Slice squash and mushrooms. Warm oil in saute pan. Add squash, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. Saute squash and mushrooms until tender but still a bit crisp.
This post is the first in a series of Using the Garden Veggies recipes that I'm going to be sharing with you over the next couple of months! Stay tuned for many more ideas on how to put those garden veggies to good use this year!
School is just around the corner. The school supply lists have been or will soon be sent home reminding you of what your child needs to bring to school for the upcoming year. It’s likely the list looks daunting and seems pricey!
If you are not careful, the back-to-school budget can easily be comparable to if not surpass a holiday gift budget. At the same time, a little planning and preparation can save you lots of cash on supplies. Here are five ways to stretch your back-to-school budget.
1. Organize and evaluate what you already have on hand.
It is likely that you do not need to purchase every last item on the school supply list. You probably already have many of the items on hand but may just need to gather them all in one place and take inventory. While you’re doing this, consider creating a central spot for all of these supplies in an organized and accessible fashion for what won’t be sent to school.
Then, decide which items will be used by which child and which items could just use a little TLC. For example, it may be possible that a lunch box is just dirty and not actually in bad shape. Mechanical pencils may just need some additional lead instead of buying a whole new pencil set. Fix up any items, and set aside what will be sent to school. Now you can mark those items off of the list before you even start shopping. Stay tuned next week for how to re-vamp existing supplies to make the old seem new and exciting all over again!
2. Do NOT do all of your shopping in one trip.
Current school supply sales going on now and over the next month can really help you to save big on what you didn’t have at home that will need to be purchased. At the same time, you’ll need to be strategic in order to really get the most of the deals. Consider spreading out school supply shopping over several weeks because the great deals change weekly. Some of the best deals (such as the penny deals) require a minimum purchase in order to receive the discount so consider meeting the minimum on other things you need without buying everything you need. If you have not purchased all of the items at once, you’ll have plenty of things to buy bit-by-bit to reach the minimum each time, get the great deals, and know that you’ll buy other things you need in the following weeks.
3. Think in terms of your year-long needs, but also take advantage of current sales.
Let’s face it, kids use school supplies up just about as fast as they were purchased. Anticipate that there may be a need later in the school year to send more pencils or other commonly used supplies to school again. The best school supply deals in stores are happening now and not in January or February. Therefore, be sure to anticipate this and stock up on more than what the supply list calls for now. You’ll also want to consider what supply needs you will have at home for homework and buy extra for your at-home use, too.
4. Get creative with where you find and how you use/label supplies.
Does one child have a school supply or school clothes that another sibling really wants? Consider trading supplies so that what one kid is tired of using can now be used by another one who still likes and wants it. One child’s outgrown clothes may be the perfect size for a younger sibling. Consider using your stock pile for things like tissues and baggies that will be requested by the teacher but are not important enough to the kids to need to buy them special (no need to buy the “cool” box of tissues when it will be tossed after use anyway!). Think about unconventional places that might have school supplies lurking throughout the house, and use those. Have all of the pencils disappeared into game board boxes when they were needed to record scores? Did all the rulers end up in the garage when they were used for summer fix-it projects? You’ll be amazed at what you might discover or be able to re-use.
Also, get creative with how you label supplies. If less supplies are lost, there will be less need to go out and purchase replacements. Consider labeling supplies with your child’s name in permanent marker or even with something more fun like stickers with their name pre-printed on them.
5. Only send the necessities to school with the kids, and keep the rest at home for safekeeping.
You’ll save big money on needing to go out and buy things later if you help your kids to only use what they need instead of having instant access to all of their new and exciting supplies at once. Be sure to keep the supplies out of sight and mind before they get to school so they aren’t used up before they even get there. When you drop off supplies, ask teachers which supplies will be collected up and used collectively as a class (tissues, etc.) versus which ones each child will hold onto and use individually. For the individual use ones, only give your child what they will need now. Save the rest at home, and send them to school as needed. Just be sure to tell your kids they are available whenever needed so they don’t think they have to suffer all year without a writing utensil!
What are other ways that you save money on school supplies? We would love to hear from you in the comments section!
If you are as much of a fan of berries as I am, I’m sure you are loving all of the delicious summer berries. Because they are in season right now, there have been and will continue to be some great deals on berries over the next few weeks that make them both delectable and affordable. The only bummer is that berries can be considered a taste of summer only because they are often very pricey and not quite as yummy during other times of the year.
If you want to enjoy berries throughout the year but want to stock up when the price is right, consider freezing them. Although the consistency of the berries will change slightly after being frozen, they will still be a cheap and tasty way to incorporate berries into your diet throughout the year. The berries that you freeze are great in smoothies (straight from their frozen state to the blender) and in fruit desserts such as cobblers and crisp after they are thawed. There are lots of potential uses for the frozen berries so be creative! Here are some steps to follow to freeze berries of any kind right when they are purchased for use throughout the year.
1. Prepare, wash, and dry the berries
Blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries do not need any preparation, but you’ll want to slice up the strawberries to your desired size and toss the stems/leaves. Now you’re ready to wash them by placing them in a colander and rinsing with water. By doing the washing now, you’ll know the berries can be eaten immediately when removed from the freezer. In addition, the change in consistency and extra juiciness of the berries after being frozen will make them harder to wash frozen versus when they are fresh. Transfer the washed berries to paper towels, and dab them off to try so water droplets are removed.
2. Freeze berries individually
Place the washed and dried berries onto baking sheets. Be careful to leave a little bit of space in between each berry so they are all frozen individually instead of in clumps. This will make them easier to remove in whatever portion you want later instead of having a big chunk come out all at once. When the baking sheet is filled, place it in the freezer and be sure it is lying flat. Freeze the berries for several hours until they are firm and frozen solid.
3. Transfer to bags and freeze until needed
When the berries are frozen solid, transfer them to freezer bags of whatever size you prefer. It is best to place each type of berry in its own bag instead of mixing them together. Label each bag with the date and the name of the berry. Put the bags back in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
I can just about taste those breakfast berry smoothies already. Can you? Happy freezing!
Like so many things in our fast-paced and action-packed world, it is easy (for kids and adults alike) to overlook the “behind the scenes” aspects of life and take for granted all the effort required to make something come to fruition. This is certainly the case when it comes to our nation’s Independence Day. Even the more common reference of “Fourth of July” seems to negate what the holiday represents and the blessing of having our independence and freedom. If you want to be sure that this holiday is not another one that goes under appreciated for what it really is in your household, consider celebrating the real meaning and significance of Independence Day this year. Here are a few family-friendly ways to do just that.
-Fly Our Nation’s Flag
Simply flying the American flag at your house can be an important and easy way to teach your kids how a little respect and appreciation for our country, freedom, and those who have fought for it can go a long way. This simple act of patriotism has certainly not lost its significance. Don’t agree? Just look around the stadium at the fans and the flags they fly with pride for their country at the World Cup, and you’ll be reminded that patriotism and passion for your country is vital and special.
In the process, teach or remind your kids what the flag represents and symbolizes. Also, remind them of how to respect the flag with the way it is handled and that it should not touch the ground. Explain that it stands for our whole country and shows we're connected to each other as Americans -- we're on the same “team”. The 50 stars stand for our 50 states. The 13 stripes stand for the original 13 British colonies, whose citizens decided in 1776 that they wanted to govern themselves rather than be ruled by a king.
-Create a Family Handprint Flag
Gather the family for a fun evening of conversation and crafts. Using a large white poster board or a white canvas (if you want something more permanent to use in your home as a decoration) plus red and blue washable or tempura craft paint, you have the base for a family flag. Choose the family member(s) with the smallest hands to create the blue and white part of the flag by dipping their hand in blue paint (that is spread on a paper plate) and pressing their handprint down scattered several times throughout the top left of the board like “stars”. The other members of the family with larger hands can do the same thing using red paint. With the red, create rows of red handprints throughout the rest of the canvas to create the stripes while being sure to leave stripes of the white canvas in between each red row to form the white rows. As you create the flag, talk about why each of you are grateful for your freedom or what freedoms we have are most significant to you personally. Let the flag dry flat before displaying it.
-USA Birthday Cake
Our country's birthday is July 4th. It marks the day in 1776 that a group of determined patriots declared our independence and would not allow another country to rule us. This act was extremely dangerous, but American patriots knew the battle was worth it in order to be free to govern themselves. The simple act of making a birthday cake and singing “Happy Birthday” to America can help even young children to start to understand what we are really celebrating.
For older kids, consider extending the conversation and activities surrounding Independence Day for them around the significance of the Pledge of Allegiance, our National Anthem, our country’s Presidents, our rights and responsibilities as American citizens, etc.
Don’t let the significance of Independence Day escape unnoticed this year and beyond!
Hopefully we have been getting you in a patriotic mood with the red, white, and blue “berry” delicious ideas that we've shared over the last few weeks. Now it’s time to get the kids into the spirit of Independence Day with some fun summer activities and festive ways to celebrate!
-Patriotic Flip Flops
Do your kids have some old flip flops that could use a makeover? Why not turn them into festive and fashionable ones? By simply using either red, white, and blue ribbons or scrap cloth, you can do just that. All you need is a bunch of six inch fabric strips in a variety of colors and some flip flops. Kids can tie the center of each strip around the flip flop straps until they fill it up all the way around.
There is so much freedom and flexibility to this as it doesn’t matter if the strips are close together or far apart. Consider using patterned fabric with red, white, and blue color throughout for even more flair. The best part is that the strips can simply be taken off if there are mistakes or if you don’t want to invest in new flip flops but don’t want to always want the decorated variety either.
-Festive Nail Polish
Have you taken advantage of the nail polish freebies that we’ve seen at Walgreens over the past couple months? If so, you just may have some red, white, and blue nail polish on hand. If not, a cheap investment in those three colors can be loads of fun for the little ladies in your life.
Consider setting up a home manicure spa for a group of girls to come and get their nails done by the moms or have the activity available at a 4th of July gathering.
Start with a base color and add white stars on top using a dot of white nail polish and creating the points of the star by dragging paint from the dot outward using a toothpick. Create the look of a USA flag by painting the left-most fingernail on each hand with blue and the other fingers on each hand with red. Then go back and add white stars on top of the blue nails and white stripes (again with a toothpick) to the red nails.
Are you hosting a party with lots of kids this holiday? Add some fun party favors to the mix that kids can take home with them or fill them with small gifts that will keep the kids entertained throughout the party. Consider putting firework temporary tattoos inside along with candies, bouncy balls, noise makers, etc. To make them extra festive, wrap them to look like firecrackers. This can be done by filling an empty toilet paper roll with the items and wrapping shiny paper on the outside. Leave enough paper on the edges of the tube to put a half toilet paper roll on each end of the full roll. Use ribbon to tie the section in between each full and half roll, and trim off any paper that goes beyond the rolls. Breaking them open is extra fun!
-Paper Chain Flag
This craft is a fun way to create a kid-friendly version of a USA flag. All you need is red, white, and blue construction paper and tape or staples.
Cut out 16 strips of blue paper that are each about 8-9 inches long and 1 inch wide. Cut out 36 strips of red paper of the same length and width and 25 strips of white paper. Create the flag one row at a time.
Have the kids make the first row by making a circle out of the first blue strip by connecting the ends of it together. Either staple or tape the ends together. String of July gathering. Start with a base color and add white stars on top using a dot another blue strip through the first blue circle and attach the same way. Do this with a total of 4 blue strips and then finish the row with 7 red paper circle links. The next row will be done the same way but with 4 blue and then 7 white strips. The third row will be the same as the first and the fourth the same as the second. Then you’ll need one completely red row of chains (11 strips total) followed by a white row of 11 strips and then the bottom row will be another row of 11 red strips.
If you keep the rows in order, you should have a flag look with blue in the upper left with red and white alternating strips on the right and then three rows of the red and white chains at the bottom. Tape or staple each row to the one above it to create a 3D paper chain flag.
What activities do you do with the kids to celebrate the 4th of July?
Next up in our berry inspired mini-series is a super simple way to make any drink you’ll be serving this holiday (some examples could include water, lemon/lime soda, lemonade, or juice) extra festive with a simple red, white, and blue addition.
Simply place a few raspberries, blueberries, or strawberry slices into each cube of an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze. The ice cubes will not only look festive but will add a touch of fruity flavor to your beverage as they melt!
It’s the time of year when grills are sizzling, friends are gathering, and a country’s birthday is worth celebrating. With the fourth of July just around the corner, consider adding some “berry” delicious treats to your menu for Independence Day.
Today we are kicking off a short series berry-inspired recipes are not only yummy but also add some festive charm in the form of red, white, and blue. Enjoy!
Red, White and Blue Parfaits
Start off the 4th of July with a bang by making berry and yogurt parfaits for breakfast. Or, you can save the fun as a healthy addition to the BBQ later in the day. Regardless, the simple ingredients make these easy and appealing. For a vintage feel, make the parfaits in Mason jars.
1. Wash all fruit. Slice strawberries into bite-size pieces. Mix strawberries and raspberries into one bowl and leave the blueberries separate.
2. Fill the bottom of each Mason jar about 1/3 full with blueberries.
3. Add yogurt to make the jars about 2/3 full.
4. Top with the strawberry and raspberry mixture until the jars are nearly full.
5. Add a little granola for extra crunch to the top before serving.
Do you have other berry-inspired 4th of July recipes? Please share in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing all of your delicious ideas!
Summer’s here! With the excitement and joy that summer brings, don’t forget to incorporate some learning into all those hours of freedom. We have been looking at ways to do this based on various school subjects over the last few weeks, and now we take a look at reading. Summer is a great time for kids to realize that learning is fun, and reading is one of those areas that just may need some extra motivation and enjoyment attached to it for your child!
One of the best ways you can foster the love of reading is by doing just that- reading! Let your kids read what they want to read. Self-selected instead of teacher or parent-selected books can encourage enjoyment because the topics relate to that child’s specific interests. Encourage reading for pleasure by not just limiting reading to books, but allow your child to choose from a variety of reading materials such as magazines or comic books. Although it may sound strange, your kids seeing YOU reading can be a big motivator. Don’t expect your kids to form a habit of reading unless they see you doing it and enjoying it, too.
Here are some unconventional and exciting ways to incorporate reading into the summer:
Don’t skip family meal time: It may sound strange, but you can achieve the same (if not better) vocabulary development that is achieved through reading by making sure you are eating together regularly. Even though it can be easy to get a bit lazy about having everyone sit down to the table during the summer, keeping up this practice can foster similar gains to reading in the category of overall language development. Keep those conversations flowing to help kids continue learning!
Have a family book/movie club: Your kids may not even realize that many of the movies they love were originally story books. Have the family read some of those books throughout the summer. Celebrate the completion of each book by having a family movie night to compare the book to the movie. Kids may realize how much richness can be found in reading when they see how many details are left out of the movie.
Take advantage of all that libraries have to offer: In addition to going to the library to have kids self-
select books, libraries offer many other benefits. Check into summer reading programs that offer incentives and prizes for reading hours or number of books read. Explore sections of the library you haven’t been to before such as the international section to take a stab at reading a book in another language. Rent a free movie or two or enjoy a read-aloud session while you’re there.
Encourage comprehension development through games: Younger kids may need assistance in understanding what they read. In order to be sure their reading has meaning, write general questions on a beach ball or purchase a pre-made one. These could include where the story takes place, what characters were in the story, what your favorite part of the book was, or the order of story events. Toss the ball to each other, and answer the question that your right thumb lands on.
No matter what activities you do this summer related to academics, be sure to keep them fun and interactive so that kids will want to keep doing them. We would love to hear other ideas you use to foster the learning of social studies, writing, math, science, and reading concepts at your house. Please feel free to share comments below and on the other posts in this series.
If you love this post, make sure to also check out these which are part of our Children's Summer Learning series:
Swimming pools are opening, camping gear is out of storage, and many kids are out of school. All of these are signs that summer is upon us! Over the last couple weeks, we have been sharing some activities geared toward making summer not just about pleasure but also about continued learning in fun ways, too. This time we’ll take a look at science activities to do at home or on simple excursions in surrounding communities.
Science at Home:
Without even thinking about it, many home projects relate well to science. Whether you’re cooking or planting a garden, there are science lessons to be learned. Invite the kids into the kitchen and yard with you. As you interact, kids can learn about the chemistry behind yeast as you bake bread or the parts of a plant as you garden. There are lots of ways to do experiments at home. Be creative with finding ways to make home projects into science learning opportunities, and enjoy the results- some of which may even be edible!
For a floral science experiment, have kids plant their own flowers in small pots and water them using a variety of liquids (water, soda, milk, lemonade, juice, kool aid, etc.). Hypothesize which one will grow the tallest, and see what happens! Talk about the importance of keeping other factors the same such as where the plants are located, how often and how much they are “fed”, etc.
Making homemade ice cream can be a science experiment, too. Learn the science behind the freezing point of water. Believe it or not, the salt lowers the water’s freezing point, which helps freeze the ice cream!
Science in the Community:
Just as there are many wonderful places to visit that teach us more about social studies such as historical landmarks and history museums, there are opportunities everywhere to learn about science in our communities. Three major divisions of science that are studied throughout elementary, middle, and high school are life science, physical science, and earth science. Consider visiting places that showcase those forms of science. Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Life Science- zoos, animal sanctuaries, botanical gardens, farms, state parks, etc.
• Physical Science- discovery museums, science museums, manufacturing factories that give tours, etc.
• Earth Science- planetariums, observatories, weather stations, etc.
If you have a college or university in your area, check out summer programs there. Many schools offer science camps, special exhibits, and other science-related activities during the summer that are suited perfectly for kids!
If you think about it, the world we live in really is a giant science lab so have fun getting out there and exploring this summer!
If you love this post, make sure to also check out these which are part of our Children's Summer Learning series: