As I was browsing Facebook the other day, I noticed a friend’s picture of her adorable daughter all excited about her first day of kindergarten. What?! How can it already be back to school time? We experienced record high temperatures of 108 in Portland last week and this week we are still in the 90’s. This heat wave definitely feels like summer! Well, I realized parents living in other parts of the country are already packing school lunches and wishing kids a happy school day. We still have a couple of weeks to go here in the Pacific Northwest before the kiddos head back but seeing my friend’s picture reminded me that it might be a good idea to start planning for a stress-free transition back to school.
Here is my quick back to school checklist for happy kids and a happy mom:
Purchase school supplies
I looked up to see if the school supply list was already posted on the school website and no way, it was! I printed two copies so each one of my kids could check off items and feel in charge. Before we left for the store, I checked if we still had any school supplies left from last year. To avoid any discussions about wanting vs. needing stuff in the middle of the store aisle, I made sure to set expectations with the kids on what we would definitely not need this year. While our school supply shopping still took forever and my head felt like it was spinning from kids excitedly showing me notebooks and backpacks and lunch boxes and….. all at the same time, I survived the trip and got the job done. Pfff!
When I talked with my mom about the experience, she told me I got “a cookie from my own dough” which is a Dutch expression that means “a taste of your own medicine”. It’s true. I loved shopping for school supplies as a kid!
Get important appointments scheduled
It is so much more difficult to schedule appointments when school is back in session. Between homework assignments, after school activities and other commitments, it can be so tricky to fit appointments into a busy schedule. It doesn’t always work out but I try to schedule our kids’ medical, dental and orthodontic appointments while we are still on summer break. If the timing doesn’t work out due to insurance requirements or spacing between appointments, I look for dates on the calendar when the kids have a teacher planning day or other no school day.
Plan after school activities for fall
Whether you are planning for child care after school or extracurricular activities, it helps to plan ahead. Does your child need new soccer cleats? Now may be the time to find them on sale! Do your kids’ activities overlap or fall on the same days? Are you planning to carpool with other parents? Time to figure out the weekly schedule!
Get our kids on a regular sleep schedule
I’m not always good about getting enough sleep myself but I am a big believer in our kids getting good sleep! Quality sleep makes such a big difference in their moods and everyone knows it’s important for learning. Our kids must have been growing a lot this summer because it seems that all they do right now is eat and sleep! They have been sleeping in really late so the plan is to start getting them back on a regular sleep schedule and waking them up earlier so the shock is not as great when that first day of school alarm bell rings!
This is a silly one maybe but besides a new haircut looking good for those first day of school pics, it is nice to start the school year without having to worry about haircuts for awhile! It’s one of those chores that takes quite a bit of time, but at least is easy to schedule. Much easier than doctor appointments or dental appointments! Those first few weeks of school are always crazy busy though, so you will be thankful when haircuts are checked off the list when school starts.
Mark important dates on the calendar
The calendar fills up quickly so it’s helpful to get important school dates on the calendar now. When are the teacher planning days? Any late openings or early release days? When are teacher-parent conferences? Will school host an open house evening? Getting these dates on the calendar helps to avoid scheduling conflicts which leads to more work on your part. Save yourself the headache of trying to frantically reschedule things at the last minute by getting organized now.
What helps your child transition back to school? What helps you to have a stress-free transition? Any other items on your checklist? I would love to hear from you in the comment section. If you find this back to school checklist helpful, please help other parents stay sane and share! Thank you!
P.S. Did you know I have an Etsy shop with bilingual and educational printables? Especially helpful for those parents with kids who are in a Spanish Immersion program, the bilingual printables can help your child to refresh their Spanish language skills before school starts. Click the button above to check them out!
Our kids are so busy with activities nowadays, especially during the school year. Between sports practices, music lessons and school work, there is little time for unstructured play. This is why we cherish our long summer break. However, summer break is also an excellent time for learning! And no, it doesn’t have to be boring!
Here are 3 ways to make summer learning fun for the kids and you!
1. LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Has your child shown as interest in everything having to do with Japan after reading a manga comic book? Can’t stop building the Eiffel tower with Lego blocks in hopes of going on a trip to Paris and greeting everyone with a friendly “bonjour”? Has the ability to consume more than a pound of pasta in one sitting inspiring a love of everything Italian? Okay, that may seem a bit far fetched but hobbies and interests can lead to wonderful learning opportunities.
Sometimes, it’s a trip abroad that can encourage us to learn a new language. But even staying at home, our interests can lead to a desire to learn a foreign language. As a teenager growing up in the Netherlands, I loved listening to Italian music from artists such as Eros Ramazzotti and Laura Pausini. I enjoyed the music so much that I wanted to better understand the lyrics. At the start of my summer break, I headed to my local library for a course in Italian. During college, I continued with a couple of classes in Italian and even though I’m quite rusty at this point, I will always love this beautiful language.
We enrolled our kids in Spanish Immersion school because learning a foreign language is really important to our international family. This is also one of the reasons I started an etsy shop with bilingual and educational printables. I create printables that make learning fun for kids such as this Spanish dress up paper doll and this Spanish memory game.
I recently published a brand new printable to learn the names of body parts in Spanish. It comes with a decorative print that you can hang up in a prominent place in the kitchen, kids bedroom or teacher’s classroom. To test their knowledge, kids can use the worksheet to see how many names they already know and for easy review, an index with both the Spanish words as well as their English translations is included.
No matter which language your child is wanting to learn, have fun with it and learn together!
2. SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS
Science is a subject that really lends itself to hands-on learning! We have a bunch of books on the shelf with science experiments but this summer we have really been enjoying the experiments posted by Yellow Scope. Yellow Scope is a wonderful Portland based company run by awesome people who work with an incredible amount of passion to inspire girls to love science.
We are a bit behind with Camp Yellow Scope (so don’t worry about starting late) but the experiments we have done, have been really fun. As a busy mom, I appreciate that most of the items needed for the science experiments are things I already have laying around the house. Also, the experiments are not so lengthy that they are hard to fit into the day, yet they pack a mighty educational punch.
3. SIMPLY.... READING
Fiction or non-fiction? Adventure or sci-fi? Comic strips or beautifully illustrated picture books? What gets your child excited about reading? For some kids, it’s not so much the subject or format of the books. In my last blog post, I shared with you the summer reading program and rewards I created for those kids who love games and work hard for a special incentive or positive reward. Our kids enjoy reading but they still love it when they can earn prizes for their progress. Who doesn’t it? I recently signed up for the adult reading game our local library organized!
A friend of mine recently shared on Facebook that her family went to the book store together to buy books for their “family book club”. This summer, she will be reading the same books as her husband and middle school aged child. Such an excellent idea! Sharing thoughts about the books and engaging with each other will make the experience of reading these books so much more interesting and rewarding.
Our kids can easily read by themselves now but they still love it when I read to them aloud. So in the evening or during road trips and travel, I have been reading them books that we all enjoy. Currently, I’m reading them the book “Theodore Boone, kid lawyer" by John Grisham. It’s a mystery that is not scary but suspenseful. The book introduces kids to the vocabulary of our court system in a non-boring, story telling way. We have also really enjoyed the mysteries in the Eddie Red series by Marcia Wells. I especially appreciate the diversity in the characters in these books as well as the clever plot line and references to art.
I’m still looking for a great resource for math so if you have any tips or can refer me to any online math resources, please leave me a comment! I’m sure my readers will appreciate it too! Thank you!
We have about two more weeks left before summer break starts but I know some parts of the country are already celebrating no homework and no school lunches. Good for you! Our daughter came out of school yesterday telling me that the kids were all hyped up because everyone is so ready for summer. Have I mentioned yet how much respect I have for teachers? You’re almost there, teachers!
During these hectic “end of the school year” days, we definitely look forward to the joys of summer: more time for creativity and art, sleeping in, swimming in lakes, hiking in the woods, unstructured play time and reading awesome books. What is better than laying on a soft picnic blanket under a big tree and “traveling” to whatever part of the world or time period your book takes you?
Whether or not your kid loves to read, reading during summer break is so important regardless. Most American kids get to enjoy being out of school for 2 1/2 months every summer which is a REALLY LONG time not to be practicing their reading skills. As a comparison, I grew up in the Netherlands where kids only get about 6 weeks of summer break. Their summer break really flies by!
So what are you to do when you don’t want your kid to show up back at school this fall feeling behind and frustrated because they are struggling to catch up after summer? I certainly don’t have any professional answers but I am a mom who is passionate about kids and helping them to love reading. That’s why I decided to create a program that would turn summer reading from a chore into a game where kids feel motivated and excited about the rewards they can earn. As a busy mom myself, I wanted to make sure to create a program that is easy to fit in with everything else. Win-win, right?
Want to know more about feeling less frustrated and more relaxed this summer about the whole summer reading thing? Then head on over to my etsy shop to check out this fun reading game and book log to keep track of favorite books. You can come up with your own rewards but to make it extra easy, I have included nine rewards that will make your kid happy and look cool with hand drawn illustrations. This summer reading kit even includes a word search game as a bonus. This is an instant download printable so your child can start playing it and reading right away. Also, you can print however many copies you need during the summer and give each child their own game board to visually keep track of their progress.
Instead of arguing and nagging your child to read this summer break, here are a few more tips to engage with your child in regards to their reading in a positive way:
I would love to hear any other tips you may have found to be helpful in enjoying summer reading with your child. Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
P.S. I really hope you will enjoy the game I created and that it helps you to have a fun summer with your family. For less than a Starbucks latte, you can be their summer reading champion so that your kids won’t fall behind on reading this summer. Your kids’ teachers will thank you!
Super quick post here tonight to let you all know that I created an instant download printable for teacher appreciation week and teacher gifts for the end of the school year. It is available in my etsy shop.
The print has a sweet poem surrounded by a border of red roses to express you are thankful for the education and care teachers give the kids! Easy to print at home or at a local print shop for a meaningful gift. The simple, modern design is suitable and attractive for graduation from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school or college. Busy mom? This is an instant download so perfect for last minute teacher appreciation week and end of school year gifts. Best part is you can print as many as you need so you can include the specials teachers, school counselor, music teacher, art teacher, ESL teacher, and assistant teachers as well!
If you have any stories about a special teacher, please share! Big time thanks to all you teachers!!
There is a little girl I want you to meet. Her name is Cecilia. She is about 6” tall, has a sweet smile and two sassy braids. The coolest thing about her? She is bilingual! I have been working on Cecilia for months and I’m so excited to finally introduce her to you!
Cecilia is a paper dress up doll that comes with a bunch of cute outfits for both winter and summer, all labeled in Spanish and English. I drew all the illustrations by hand before uploading them into a digital, instant download printable. Playing with Cecilia, your child can practice English and Spanish conversation skills talking about the clothing, the seasons or any other fun topic that comes up! Children can color the simple black and white illustrations with pencils, markers or any favorite art supply. Then, they can cut out the shapes and “dress up” the doll in a cute outfit.
Besides using this bilingual printable as a dress up doll activity and coloring page, your child can also cut out the labels for the clothing and see if they can match the label with the correct piece of clothing as a matching game. While kids of all ages may enjoy this activity, I think kids in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school would especially enjoy it.
Since the time my kids were very little, I have always been on the lookout for bilingual kids toys and books. With kids in Spanish immersion school, I wanted to support their education by providing them with fun activities in Spanish because I’m a big believer that learning should be fun and that kids can learn so much through play. The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education.
The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education. "
Cecilia, the paper dress up doll, is available as an instant download pdf file printable in my etsy shop so your child or students can play with this learning activity immediately. After purchase, you can print as many copies as you need for your personal use (or classroom use if you are a teacher). You can find more details about Cecilia by clicking here.
I know that we all get busy but would you leave me a comment to let me know what you think of Cecilia? It would make my day!
Thank you so much!
We all know that children love to explore and that exploring is important to their development. As adults, it is easy to get stuck in the routines of daily life and occupy ourselves with the same old activities, habits and chores. I personally love my routines but recognize that us grown-ups can certainly benefit from exploring too!
Exploring can open our minds to new ideas, gain a new perspective, clear our minds from stress and inspire us to seek knowledge of the world around us. Here are five easy ways to incorporate more exploration into our adult lives and helping our inner child to soar:
One of my favorite ways to explore is by going outdoors and into nature. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful place where within a hour’s drive I can be either at the coast or the mountains. The Pacific Northwest offers a variety of landscapes that make it fun to explore with the whole family. The seasons offer different activities to explore nature and many of them are free!
Our family loves to go hiking and pay attention to wildlife tracks on the trail. We study the native plants we see or try to figure out which bird is singing so pretty. In summer, we swim in mountain lakes and learn about newts. In fall, we hunt for edible mushrooms in the forest or go for “nature treasure hunts” in the city as we look for pretty acorns and chestnuts.
While the kids learn lots through these experiences, I have found myself learning as well. Exploring engages me with the natural world and encourages me to open up reference books to better understand what plant or animal track I’m looking at.
As an artist, I explore by trying out a new art supply or experimenting with a new medium. In my illustrations, I strive to communicate ideas with simple line drawings and push myself which lines are necessary to make the drawing as pleasing yet simple as possible. Last year, I received a rubber stamp making kit for Christmas. I had never tried my hand at making stamps but found that my simple designs work very well in making stamps.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, it can be so fun to doodle with some pencils, build something out of wood or create a bowl out of clay. Our modern smart phones are equipped with amazing cameras so you can literally be a photographer on your lunch break and receive instant feedback through posting on instagram!
Explore New Skills
If you feel stuck in your job or tired with daily chores, maybe it’s time to learn a new skill. Who knows what opportunities open up by learning a new skill! It may help you to work more efficiently or step up in your career. You may find a new hobby, for example by learning how to play a musical instrument.
I recently started taking ice skating lessons. If you would have told me last year that I would be taking ice skating lessons, I would have told you you’re crazy. However, my daughter started taking lessons and it looked so fun, I couldn’t resist! I grew up ice skating during the winter in Holland so it feels great to be back onto the ice. I have to be very careful because of my back issues but taking a basic skills class has been an exciting way to get back into it.
Explore through travel
Being an international family, we’re lucky we have family all over the world we can visit. We love to travel! Exploring through travel truly opens your mind and helps you to learn about other cultures, foods and ways of living. It widens our horizons…. quite literally.
If travel is not in your budget or you have physical challenges to make travel a reality, you can travel from your most comfortable chair right at home by reading books! I recently read “A State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett which allowed me to “travel” to the Amazon rainforest, a place where I have never been. Do you love to travel through books? If you have any good book recommendations for me, please leave them for me in the comments.
Explore your community
Talking about books, have you visited your local library recently? The library is not only a wonderful place to find books but also connect with your community. Our local library offers free events for all ages.
How can you explore your community? By visiting a park, by visiting a neighborhood coffee shop, by introducing yourself to a new neighbor, by supporting a local small business or getting involved as a volunteer? So many ways to explore your community!
Feeling inspired, I created a new design around this concept of exploring. The design has a triangular shape with colors that are attractive to men and women, boys and girls. The “explore” design is available on a wide variety of products including cards and apparel. By clicking on the images, you will be directed to zazzle which is the print-on-demand company which produces my designs into real life products and gifts. If you are interested in seeing the entire product line, please click here and select newest products.
If you believe in the benefits of exploring and enjoyed reading my post, I always appreciate it if you share via social media. Thank you!!
... you can make a difference for a sweet 7 year old girl in my family. You see, just a few months ago, Maddison’s days were filled with gymnastics, attending 2nd grade and playing with her sister and dogs. Then, on November 18th, Maddison was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme Cancer. Glioblastoma is a very rare and difficult to treat cancer. While battling cancer is so extremely challenging already, the family has had to battle with the health insurance company to get coverage for the chemotherapy drugs Maddison’s oncologist has recommended.
Hearing her story really touched my heart. I wanted to help but live too far away to help in a direct way. Because I express my feelings through art, I created a drawing inspired by Maddison and her love for animals and the zoo.
I’m offering this drawing to you as a free printable that you can use as a coloring page for your kids or a decorative print to hang on the wall of your child’s bedroom or baby’s nursery. You can download the pdf file simply by clicking on the image below and print from your home computer or at local print shop.
However, if you choose to download the printable, I ask that you please consider making a donation to Maddison’s gofundme campaign. Maddison is so strong and brave but she could really use a miracle right now. The gofundme campaign will help pay for the overwhelming medical expenses. Any donation will be appreciated! Your donation will bring hope and make a difference.
Thank you so much!
I just added an instant download printable for Valentine's Day cards in my etsy shop. This printable is for an 8 1/2" x 11" page of 9 cute Valentine's Day cards with my polar bears with heart illustration. The illustration shows two polar bears sharing a heart of love. The design works for both kids as well as adults (including teachers!) and is perfect for classroom Valentine parties at school!
You can print from your home computer or at the local print shop so you can print last minute! Just cut the cards along the lines and have your child fill out the "to" and "from" sections! Easy!
These Valentine's Day cards are super affordable as you can print as many as you need.
Click the button below to visit my etsy shop. Thank you for checking it out and sharing the love by liking my post, leaving me a comment or sharing on social media!
If you love spending time at a lake cabin or mountain cabin, raise your hand! Nothing can rejuvenate us like spending time in the outdoors, connecting with nature and swimming in a lake. Spending time at a cozy cabin allows us to reconnect with our family, reading books and playing games. It is one of our family’s favorite ways to spend time! Since I enjoyed working on the bilingual memory game printables I recently launched in my new etsy shop, I was inspired to create a memory matching game that celebrates the simple joys of staying at a cabin with your family.
I started with creating little doodles of woodland animals and illustrations of things that remind me of cozy cabins. Living in the Pacific Northwest for so many years has given me plenty of inspiration! From staying at historic fire lookouts on stilts to rustic cabins without any modern amenities to warming up in a beautiful ski lodge or log cabin, cabins are the best for creating lasting memories! Working on these drawings would remind me of our special family memories and before I knew it, I had 24 unique designs!
I kept the designs as simple line drawings in black ink because I thought kids may like to color in the drawings themselves and have another fun activity to do besides playing the game. Plus, it makes it easy for us moms to print at home even if the color ink cartridge on your printer is out of ink!
Would love it if you check out my new “Cabin in the Woods" game printable as it has been a labor of love! Here is the link to my new etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/PresentsofLoveShop
Also, I would value your feedback on any other printable products you’d like me to create with a cabin theme. Bookmarks? Games for kids? Stationery? Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts! Thank you so much!
Any new beginning, but especially a new year, can feel so refreshing and energizing. To me, it feels like a blank canvas with lots of opportunity for continued learning, growing, exploring and experiencing. I also seem to get an extra energy boost for decluttering and organizing after the busy month of December. It would be great if that feeling lasted awhile because our home can certainly use that…
I do love to spend time reflecting on the year past and what goals I have for the next year. This year, I determined that goal setting is an important skill for the kids to learn as well so I created a worksheet to put down our family goals. I wanted to share it with you as a free printable and hope you will enjoy using it with your family in your new year’s goal setting. This printable will help you to write down your reflections and goals in concrete terms or serve as a tool for discussion. The printable is a concise one pager but it would also be helpful to discuss with the kids how they plan on achieving their goals.
To download the free printable, please click on the image below. You will be able to print this family goal setting worksheet as a pdf file.
Good luck on your new year’s goal setting! I would love to hear about your experiences and feedback in the comments. If you like this printable, please share it with your friends or via the social media icons! Thank you so much for your continued support!
Illustrations and mosaic art gifts that celebrate the simple joys in life in a global world.