The BEST water bottle and other summertime picks

Hello there!  This blog is longer than my other ones – bare with me though, I think it’s worth the read!

Are you stumped about how to plan your summer, with kids home from school?  Even if you don’t have kids, have you been looking for new summertime ideas?  I’ve compiled just a couple items that have been so helpful to make my summer more enjoyable, and I hope that they help you too.

Water

Water is essential to (LIFE and) battle the summer heat!!  I finally found water bottles for the kids and for me that I LOVE.

For Adults: it took me years to find a super well-insulated, dishwasher safe bottle – this is a winner!!  (It’s too heavy for kids FYI):Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.51.41 PM.png

For babies/young kids: it took me so long to figure out the right bottle for this age group – the one I’m sharing here is great for them developmentally/orthodontically as well as easy to clean in the dishwasher.  There is a handle and no handle option, and two different sizes – a couple colors, and virtually spill-proof:Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.41.06 PM.png

For toddlers: this is completely dishwasher safe!, and super cute and easy for them to carry:Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.43.12 PM.png

For elementary school kids: my daughter loves this water bottle – she likes the size and it stays well insulated:

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Snacks

Fruit: fresh fruit from the farmer’s market, or what’s in season, is so delicious!  Kids love it too!  I’m always surprised at how much kids (and I) love fruit!  It’s good to take advantage of it during the spring/summertime.  I try to overload on the fruit and less on the other stuff.  The water in fruit is good to stay hydrated too.

Energy bites: my kids are hooked on these, and so am I – five simple ingredients, mixed together plus either a dash of vanilla or my favorite almond extract.  The five ingredients: oats (1 cup), peanut butter (1/2 cup), flaxseed (1/2 cup), honey (1/3 cup) and semi sweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup).  Roll them into small balls and freeze for one hour before eating.

Activities

Summer Camps: There are so many great summer activities!  The YMCA has some good camps with themed weeks.  In our area of Pennsylvania there are a lot of Vacation Bible School/Summer Day Camps – our kids could go almost all June and July to them!  A lot of them go from 9am-3pm – works great for working parents, and some have after hours care too.

Summer binder: A friend of mine from my MOPS group told me about this one – it’s for school age kids for the summer.  Pinterest has a lot of options but my basic one consists of a cover page with activities planned for the summer, and boxes to check off.  My daughter journaled in hers about every week of her summer.  Then I scanned it all in at the end of the summer to keep the memories, and tossed the pages – will reuse the binder next year.

 

Pool: A pool membership, or in our case, belonging to the Y has been so essential to keep cool during the summer, teach the kids how to swim and get energy out!  A lot of friends from church and school show up there, so it’s good for socializing too!

Play dates: Impromptu play dates are always fun, and this summer I’m scheduling a couple play dates out in advance.  A bunch of friends and I are doing the Jesus Storybook Bible curriculum, complete with crafts for the kids.  My 7 year-old always tells me that church (and life in general) is boring without crafts – something about the age group – I’ve finally gotten the message!

Vacations: We don’t always do big vacations in the summertime – most trips are to spend time with family.  I say if vacations, especially to warmer climates, can be done during the school year, go for it, as the tourists are usually fewer.  This coming summer though we’re visiting family and going on vacation with family.  Don’t know that it will work out every year but we’re looking forward to it!

I wish that I had read this blog post years ago – I wouldn’t have wasted time and money with alternatives!  “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31, right? 🙂 Enjoy your summer!

The Family Dinner Project

My husband was traveling for work recently, and I found myself at the dinner table with our three little girls, and I Googled “dinner table games”.  I found this website and have been hooked on it: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/fun/dinner-games/.  Here are my favorites:

abcs of gratitude

ABCs of Gratitude

Go around the table and each take a turn, in alphabetical order, to say something or someone you’re grateful for.  My oldest daughter who is 6 did really well at this game and it was so much fun.

20 Things I Love About…

For this game you pick a person, place, season (really anything) and you say 20 things you love about ________.  We actually did this game a bit differently at my moms (MOPS) group at church – we went around the table and all wrote down something we liked about the person whose name was at the top of the paper, and then we all read them at the end.  It was really encouraging.

Celebrity

Name a celebrity (say, Whitney Houston) and then another person name’s with the first letter of the previous celebrity’s last name (Hudson Taylor)…then repeat (Thomas Jefferson)…(Jennifer Lopez)………..

GREAT GAMES for car rides too!

Lists using chalkboard paint

Each season our family makes a list of activities, family visiting, vacations etc. – this helps the kids realize that there’s something to look forward to in every season.  It’s fun to look back on what we’ve done and I take a picture of each list.  We’ve done three lists so far and I’ll share them here to give you some ideas!

Summer:

Christmas:

Winter:

Spring has already started, so we better get moving on our list!

It was easy to make the chalkboard – I simply bought chalkboard paper and chalkboard paint markers.  I still have paper left on the original roll after covering the door that you see.  I simply erase with water the chalkboard paint and I’ve gotten three uses out of the one placing of paper.

Here’s the chalkboard paper…

…and chalkboard markers that I used:

This has been a lot of fun!

Birthday Presents (for Kids)

Hi to all (the mommas) who cringe about having a birthday party because of all the fuss and all the ‘junk’ (their kids get)!!

To reduce the birthday clutter, I have used the following poem to accompany the Evites for my oldest daughter’s birthday parties the past couple years and it’s been great for reducing birthday presents (which I have termed ‘junk’ after her 4 year old party):

Just wanted to mention – I’d like to spare you the fuss,
(not to mention my house feels just like ‘toys R us’)
I would like to suggest that for her special day,
If you’re feeling generous and to help on her way,
a couple dollars would be simply terrific,
as she wants to save money for something specific.
I hope you don’t mind or think me too rude
But I’d really appreciate the help if you could!

Some of my friends like to say only bring $7 if the child is turning 7, that sort of thing, but I don’t specify.

My daughter last year was able to buy a bicycle with the money from her party last year and it was awesome!

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I have another friend who does experiences (i.e. memberships, tickets, etc.) for Christmas and birthday gifts – she lets others give her kids physical gifts.

What have you done to minimize the birthday ‘clutter’ but still make your kids feel special and not minimize the celebration?

Toy Control

Disclaimer: we still have a play kitchen and some Little People castles, and a wicker basket for stuffed animals, but otherwise here are the bins that I limit the toys to in our sunroom:

IMG_5927

Current categories of bins: Dishes, Food, Little People, Magnetic Blocks, Balls, Figurines, Stackables.

Instead of filling all of the bins that this organizer/shelving unit came with, we decided to eliminate some bins (like more than half of them).  Less to put away.  My husband came up with the categories and labeled them (engineer that he is 🙂 ).  The dishes bin is a bit out of control but most of the time a lot of those items go in the play kitchen so it’s not usually so overflowing.  We have significantly decluttered play food and figurines over the years – really all of the categories.

What do you do to keep the toys ‘under control’? 😉