Back to School Tips, Tricks, and Traditions... and a great giveaway from Sharpie and Paper Mate

Back to school is a busy time for families, but with a little planning, it can be stress-free and a lot of fun! Today, I am sharing some fantastic back to school tips, tricks, and traditions. I am also sharing FREE printable gift tags and a fun contest from Sharpie* and Paper Mate*.

1) Shop early, and let the kids pick out their own school supplies. Shopping early will ensure you get everything on your list, and children will be excited to fill their backpacks with their favourite items. Make sure to pick up some Paper Mate Ink Joy gel pens in fabulous colours. (My boys LOVE them!) Also, keep things simple by shopping all in one place. Chances are Walmart* will have everything you need at great prices.

2) Get organized. My secret weapon is this wonderful homework station that hangs on the back of the door leading down to our basement. A clear shoe rack full of school supplies doesn't take up much space and keeps everything handy and easy to find. Using colourful pens to make lists and update family calendars is also a great way to keep things organized and fun. 

3) Prep for first day of school traditions like: special photos, treats for classmates, and a little gift for the teacher. Sharpies in a cup make a perfect first day of school teacher gift. I found this super-cute mug at Walmart, I filled it with assorted Sharpie markers, and I added a fun "A little something to keep you sharp on the first day of school" tag I designed. (24 Sharpie Fine or Sharpie Ultra Fine markers fit perfectly in a mug.) I know my boys' teachers will love these colourful, fade and water resistant markers!

You could also forgo the mug, and just attach a tag to a package of markers. Check out the tag I designed that says, "MARK my words. We are going to have a fun year!" Cute, right?

To download the tags I designed: right-click on one of the tags below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.

I love the idea of kids bringing a gift on the first day of school. Teachers and students spend a lot of time together, and giving a gift to a new teacher is a nice way to start off the school year.

And I know how you might be able to create these fun first day of school gifts for free! Just take a moment to enter a great contest for a chance to win one grand prize of a $250 Walmart gift card and Sharpie & PaperMate gift pack (ARV $315). You also have the opportunity to win one of three Sharpie & PaperMate gift packs (ARV $65).

For all the details and a chance to win, check out the Sharpie and PaperMate Back to School Giveaway here.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Sharpie/Paper Mate have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

DIY Gift for a Grandparent

Recently, we had a large family party to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. It was a special occasion, and I needed a special gift... but what do you get someone who is 90? With a little help from my aunt, I came up with this simple and thoughtful DIY grandparent gift.

I made this little note (using to explain my gift. I was giving my grandmother 12 postcards with the promise that I would send one each month for the next year.

I used Picmonkey to design my postcards, but purchasing postcards would be an easier option.

I put my postcards in a basket with some tea and a pretty mug.

I think this is the perfect DIY gift for grandparents, don't you? It is guaranteed to bring a year's worth of joy to the recipient!

(aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Summer Reading (and a GIVEAWAY from TD Summer Reading Club)

Is there anything better for children than reading? I have always tried to nurture a love of reading in my home, but the summer can be a tough time to get my active boys to sit down with a book. Today, I am sharing 5 ways that I get my boys excited about summer reading. Reading doesn't have to be a chore; it can be a source of summer fun!

1) Make a journal - Reading and writing can be fun for kids when they have a colourful, customized journal. A "Mom and Me" or "Dad and Me" journal is a wonderful way for kids and parents to write notes to each other all summer. Diaries and travel journals are also fantastic. My boys like to write in their journals when they climb into bed at the end of the day.

2) Visit the library - Libraries are an endless source of summer reading inspiration, and many have fun (and free) summer reading programs. Summer reading programs are a wonderful way to get kids motivated to read and explore new activities during the summer months. (Visit your local library, and check out the TD Summer Reading Club* here.)

3) Make a summer reading list - Making a list of books to read can be a great way to get kids excited about reading. Kids can set goals and maybe even earn a reward (like a trip to the an ice cream stand) for completing their list. If kids need help getting started, you can check out the TD Summer Reading Club suggestions here.

4) Take it outside - The summer is the perfect time to get outside and read. Read signs on a road trip, read in a tent, read at the park, read at the beach, etc... Challenging the kids to read in 5 different places will help to keep them motivated!

5) Host a summer reading party - Share the love of reading with friends in your community. Have a book swap, make bookmarks, and enjoy a special book-themed snack.

If you are struggling to get the kids reading this summer, I hope you try some of my simple ideas. And don't forget to check out the TD Summer Reading Club*. It makes it easy for kids to keep reading all summer long by connecting families with books, inspiring a sense of play through reading, building confidence and celebrating accomplishments. 

And to help you and your kids on your summer reading journey, I am giving away a set of 10 books from the TD Summer Reading Club. Enter here:

Entry-Form (CONTEST CLOSED - Winner is Carolyn B.)

Good luck, and happy reading!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and TD Summer Reading Club and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

NERF Party Cake

I am not a professional cake decorator, but I love baking and decorating simple birthday cakes for my boys. They are always thrilled to have fun and unique cakes that match their party themes. Recently, I made a couple of NERF target cakes, and below, I am sharing all the simple DIY details and instructions.
I had a joint party for two of my boys, so I made one batch of vanilla cupcakes and one batch of chocolate cupcakes. Then, I arranged the cupcakes on dollar store pizza trays in the shape of targets (see picture below).

Then, I coloured icing yellow, orange, and blue... and I piped the icing onto the cupcakes.... and added some details with black icing.

I finished by adding a few (clean) NERF bullets.

My boys were sooooo pleased with their cakes, and it was easy for the party guests to grab cupcakes during breaks in their NERF battles.

Do you like to bake cakes for your children's parties? I am really pleased with how cute these cakes turned out to be... and how happy they made my sweet birthday boys!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

2 hour Master Bedroom Refresh (for less than $350)

Sometimes rooms desperately need updating, even though time and money are in short supply. Our master bedroom was in dire need of some TLC, so I decided to take a couple of hours to do a simple refresh that cost less than $350.

Here is what our room looked like BEFORE. The bedding is old and faded, the light fixture is awful, the nightstands are full of clutter, there is only one lamp, and the windows are bare.

Here is what our room looked like AFTER. Isn't it much brighter and more welcoming?

The first thing I did was de-clutter. Then, my husband installed two curtain rods and a new light fixture. I added colourful bedding and pillows, hung light and breezy curtains, and changed the lampshades on some old lamps I had in my basement. Honestly, it took less than two hours for the entire project.

Here is how my budget broke down:

One new light fixture from Canadian Tire - $99.99

Two new lampshades from Walmart (that I added to some old lamps I had in my basement) - $23.96

Two new curtain rods from Amazon (affiliate link) - $33.58

Four new curtain panels from Amazon (affiliate link) - $28.00

New bedding from Wayfair (duvet cover, matching shams, and two pillows) - $142.99

Total: $328.52

I am extremely happy with how my room turned out, and I love how easy and inexpensive this project was. I am planning to paint the room grey, but that will have to wait for another weekend. When I get it done, I'll post a picture so that you can see the complete room.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Birthday Letter to my Middle son on his 10th Birthday

I had three boys in three and a half years, so the baby books in our house did not get the attention they deserved. To make up for my incomplete baby books, I started writing my boys annual birthday letters. Each year, on their special days, I write my boys letters detailing all the little things about their personalities that I love and cherish. Today, I am sharing the birthday letter I wrote to my middle son on his 10th birthday.

To my sweet, spunky, and "up for anything" son,

I can't believe that you are now in double digits. I miss the toddler with the unruly curls, but I couldn't be more proud of the boy you have grown up to be. You are an adventurous boy with a kind heart, and I feel very grateful that I get to be your mom. Here are a few of the things that make you the special 10 year old boy that you are:
  • You have tons of friends. People love to be around you, and you love to surround yourself with people.
  • You have a sparkle in your eye and a devilish grin.
  • You got an orthodontic appliance this year, and although it was uncomfortable and prevented you from eating some of your favourite treats, you never complained.
  • You love to be outside with your brothers running around. You love "fat bat" baseball (a game you made up), hockey, tag, frisbee, softball, etc... If you are moving, you are happy!
  • Hockey is your favourite sport, and you love road trips with your buddies.
  • You are constantly making playlists on your iPad. You love music, and you love to sing (when you don't think anyone is listening).
  • You are very clever, and you love to figure things out and build things. (You enjoy Sudoku and LEGO.)
  • You are always slow and often make us late when we are going places. You always need "five more minutes" or to complete "one more thing".
  • You love to cuddle. When I went on your class field trip this year, you sat on my lap and held my hand. You really don't care what other people think, and I admire your confidence!
You are strong willed, and sometimes drive me crazy, but you have a kind heart, and I wouldn't change a thing about you. I love you to the moon and back!


Mom xoxo

Simple Dollar Store First Aid Kit

My boys are very active and spend a lot of time outside during the summer -- which means endless summer scrapes and cuts. In order to be prepared, I wanted to create a fully stocked first aid kit for all their summer injuries. I wanted it to be cheap, and I wanted it to be portable, so I hit the dollar store and put together a perfect first aid kit for under $10. I now have everything I need in one place, I can treat my boys' injuries quickly, and I can send them back into the sunshine. 

My kit contained:

  • a plastic container (for holding all the items)
  • 40 band aids (in various sizes)
  • peroxide (for disinfecting cuts)
  • wipes (for wiping off dirt)
  • medical tape
  • steril gauze
  • scissors

I wanted to keep my kit simple and under $10, but you could also add:

  • tweezers (for splinters and ticks)
  • allergy or pain relief medicine (samples work well because they don't take up much space)
  • disposable plastic gloves
  • antibiotic ointment
  • hand sanitizer
  • cream for bug bites
I used white duct tape and red electrical tape to decorate the top of the kit, but this is totally optional. I had some in my cupboard, so I thought I'd use it!

These kits are very inexpensive, so you could make a bunch of them. They are also super-portable, so you can easily take them from the house, to the car, to the camper, or to the sports field. I have already used my kit several times this summer, and I am loving that everything I need is quickly accessible and in one spot. I highly recommend making one of these kits for your kids. You can't beat something that makes your life a little easier. :-)

 (aka East Coast Mommy)
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