Tuesday, 14 August 2012 11:49

Tips For Taking 1st Day of School Pictures

School Lunch BoxesIt’s official, back-to-school season is here! Most of us will have our camera or smartphone ready to caputure the day. This school year try adding a little variety to your First Day Of School pictures with these super easy tips.

Tip #1:  Using a sign as a prop in your child’s picture makes it very easy to remember important details from the school year – like child’s age, grade and teacher. You can keep it very simple by printing the sign with any information that you would like to recall about the school year on your home computer and having your child hold the paper in the picture.

In the pictures below my daughter is holding a homemade speech bubble - the perfect sign to hold up in pictures and it's very simple to make.  First, you will need a piece of cardboard, chalkboard paint (available at craft stores for about $6), a paint brush, scissors and chalk. Trace your speech bubble onto a piece of cardboard and then cut it out.  Next, paint one side of the cardboard with the chalkboard paint, using 2 coats (make sure to protect your surface).  Once the cardboard is dry (in about an hour), use your chalk to write your child's grade and school year.  You can be really creative - try making a large sign and adding your child's school name, teacher's name, a few of his/her favorite things, etc. Take a few pictures using the sign - they make a really adorable picture collage. Make your speech bubble before the 1st day of school.

Word BubbleSpeech Bubble 1st Day of School speech bubble 1st day of school

Tip #2:  Using cutouts as a prop is super easy too! In these examples my two daughters are holding up cut outs of the grade that they are entering that year. Super cute! We made the cut outs from cardboard paper the night before to save time that morning. Any kind of sturdy paper works well, like construction paper, or even felt.  You can be really creative here! At most craft stores you can buy numbers made from cardboard in the wood making section that you can then have your child paint for a personal touch to use in his/her pictures.

1st Day of School Sign Picture1st Day of school picture Idea1st Day of School Picture Idea

Tip #3: Take a group shoot. If you have multiple children take a group picture of them. You may have to allow for some extra time in the morning to take this picture, since taking a good group shot can be a monumental task for many of us. It’s a great way to see comparative growth between the kids too!

Tip #4:  Walk away. I love taking the classic “walking off to school” picture – of the child's back to the camera.  It's one of the easiest pictures to take of my kids, since it doesn't matter if they are smiling or not!

Back to school picture idea

Tip #5: Name their favorite things. Take a single picture of your child and add details to the pictures of their current favorite things, like food, drink, TV show, movie or book.  These little bits of information are great for very forgetful moms like me!  I enjoy journaling, so I made a scrapbook page for my daughter about her "big day." It's also fun too to take a picture on the last day of school with the same concept to see how they have changed during the school year.

1st day of school scrapbook page

Tip #6:  Be candid & relax!

Some of my favorite pictures from the 1st day of school are those that aren't posed. Maybe you can even snap away a few pictures BEFORE school starts - when the kids are shopping for back to school supplies and clothes. This may be the best tip for those with teens - they may not be up to capturing every "big" moment in their life as much as we would like too :)  It's always ok to take a few pictures AFTER the big day.  Some kids may just not want to take pictures on the 1st day and you may have too many other things to worry about, like being on time and packing a lunch!

1st day of school picture tips1st day of school picture tips

School Supplies

It's starting to feel like the school year is just around the corner and it's only July!  Are you beginning to get ready?


With a troubled economy and the cost of many family necessities on the rise, most of us are looking for practical and easy ways to cut our spending this fall with our back-to-school shopping list.

Did you know that the back-to-school season is the 2nd largest consumer event behind the holidays? According to the National Retail Federation, an average family will spend about $450.76 on back-to-school items. Families with children going to college will spend much more!  Saving money is not easy, especially when our kids seem to be wired to want the latest and most fashionable things out there! Check out the following tips, they can help you avoid emptying your wallet this back-to-school season while still getting everyone what they need.

Tips for Saving on Back-to-School Shopping:

1. Take Inventory

Look at what your children have from the previous school year and determine what can be reused for this year. Not only will you save money if you reuse, but it’s also eco-friendly. Rulers, pencil cases, backpacks, lunch boxes, sharpeners, and calculators don’t typically need to be replaced each new school year. Once you have located all the school supplies in your home, place them in a central bin so you can take a good look at what you already own before you head out to shop for new supplies.

2.  Do a closet sweep

Has your child really outgrown last year’s clothes? On average, a family spends about 30% of their back to school budget on clothes, so not buying even a few items can really save you a significant amount of money. After you have assessed what clothing your child can still wear this school year you can buy what they still need.   If your children are older, discuss with them what items you will be purchasing for the new school year and your budget, so they don't expect a brand new wardrobe.

3.  Set your budget

Know how much you have to spend and only spend that much.  This is hard for me to do, I love the feel of a new school year and part of me feels like my children should have new supplies and clothes, but even grownups can learn that it's perfectly fine to reuse and to not always have the latest must-have items.  It’s helpful to bring the cash that you will need on your shopping trip and limit your purchases to just what is in your purse.  I allow our kids one small extra purchase that’s not on the supply list.

Some parents set a limit to the number of character-based supplies they will purchase since they tend to be more expensive than the store brands.  With older kids you may want to determine ahead of time how you will handle their requests for non-essential items. Here are some suggestions:

  • They can pay for anything not only list.

  • They can pay the difference between what you will spend on an item and what they want to spend.

  • Let them spend more on a certain item, as long as they are aware that they must then spend less on another.

  • Back-to-school season is a good opportunity to teach children between needs and wants.

4.  Steer towards Store Brands

Unless your child’s back-to-school supply list asks for a particular brand, buy the store brand when possible. Many store brands work just as well and are typically about 30% cheaper than name brands.

Supplies 25. Buy Quality

While tempting, it’s not always best to buy the cheaper option. Buy quality items where they matter. I don’t care if my kids have name brands markers or crayons, but I will invest in a good backpack that will last more than one school year. Hint: For backpacks it’s a good idea to look for ones with a lifetime warranty and that are non-character based. They will last longer and your child won’t outgrow the characters.  I also like to get the notebooks with the plastic covers because they are very durable and I look for cloth pencil pouches that can be washed.

6. Leave the Kids at Home

I tend to spend more when the kids are with me.   I can't focus on making sure that I am getting the best deals on the items in my shopping cart and somehow “extra” stuff not on the list ends up in our cart. It’s great to involve your kids with back-to-school shopping, just be strategic as to how do this.  It makes sense to bring the children with you when shopping for new clothes but you can leave them behind when shopping for school supplies, especially if they are younger.   If you bring them with you make your children aware that you have a budget and will limit your purchases to it.

7. DIY

I have to admit that I am not drawn towards the plain school supplies, so I don’t expect my kids to ask for them. However, my girls do love stickers. Buy the plain school supplies and let your kids decorate them with stickers, markers, pictures, etc.

8. Shop online

Shopping online is great for back-to-school items because you can instantly compare prices at stores without spending time or gas getting to the stores.  Try sites like www.pricegrabber.com for finding great deals on back-to-school supplies.  Shopping online is especially helpful for bigger ticket items, like calculators.

9.  Think Ahead and Buy in Bulk

Buy products that your children will need during the school year now, when they are on sale, and in bulk. You may even buy some basic supplies in bulk and share the cost with a friend. Consider having a box or shelf where you keep extra school supplies handy for your kids, so when they need crayons in a few months or need a new notebook you are all set. If you can think ahead to the holidays (they will be here before you know it), go back to the store after the school year has started and take advantage of the steep discounts on school supplies – they make great stocking stuffers!  You can also donate some of the school supplies that you buy in bulk to local kids in need.   My children's school does a big back-to-school campaign for a local less fortunate school, so we always buy extra basic supplies to donate.  Local after-school programs, shelters or churches may know of places to donate your extra school supplies.

10.  Shop Early

The more time that you give yourself to shop for school supplies this season, the more time that you will have to keep an eye out for good deals.  If you buy school supplies over the course of a few weeks and stick to your budget, the cost won't seem as bad if you buy everything at once.  Many stores start their back-to-school sales in early July!

Happy back-to-school shopping!

Monday, 01 April 2013 04:46

Adjusting To A New Baby

Boy with newborn

I remember that when I was due with baby #4 my son, our 3rd child,  would go around the house, with arms crossed, saying “Don’t want a brother.”  Yet, most of the time he lovingly kissed my huge belly and said “I love you baby”  and he couldn't resist wanting to hold other little babies that we met.  I wasn't not too worried about this behavior, mostly because I had seen child #1 and child #2 in our family follow a similar behavior pattern before the next baby arrived.

As a matter of fact, many of the mothers that I have spoken to about this topic agree that most older siblings go through an adjustment period when a newborn sibling arrives. The family spends time preparing for the new baby and once the baby arrives so much time is dedicated to just meeting baby's needs. That’s a lot of change taking place!

I asked some of my friends and other moms what advice seemed to work best when helping older siblings adjust to a new baby in the house.  The suggestions are most helpful for children up to the pre-teen years.

Tip 1:  Discuss Pregnancy In Terms That Makes Sense To Kids

  • Read books about pregnancy, birth and newborns with your child.  Check out your local library or bookstore for age-appropriate books you may enjoy with your child.
  • Take out your child’s ultrasound and newborn pictures – they will love looking at them! Tell them about their birth – how excited you were and how everyone wanted to hold them.
  • Tell your child about the pregnancy when you tell your friends.  You want them to hear the good news from you.
  • Young children may not grasp when the baby will arrive, so it may be useful to explain that baby will arrive in a particular season (when it’s cold outside) or after a major holiday.

Tip 2: Include Children In Baby Preparations

  • Allow your child to help you pack your hospital bag.
  • Visit friends who have infants.
  • You may or not want to take your child for your doctor visits, but consider taking them to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound.
  • Check with your local hospital for sibling preparation classes.
  • Perhaps they can help you pick out a special coming outfit (from two you’ve preselected, of course).
  • You may want to buy your toddler age child a baby doll and have them practice holding and gently touching the doll, just like they would with their newborn sibling.
  • Allow your child to pick out a small toy or other gift that they can give to their newborn sibling when they meet for the first time.

Tip 3:  Make Arrangements To Meet Older Sibling's Needs

Baby Hands

  • Make sure that major changes – weaning, toilet training, a new room – happen well before the baby arrives.
  • For older children, explain to them that the baby will not be able to do much at first, that you may feel tired and the baby will require a lot of your time.
  • Arrange for play dates outside your home for your child with close friends or relatives, if possible, soon after the baby arrives.
  • Try to keep routines as normal as possible in the weeks around baby’s arrival.
  • Try to have your child meet the new baby as soon as possible after the big arrival.  It’s best to do this when only the immediate family is at the hospital.
  • Let your child “help” with age appropriate tasks once the baby arrives – like getting diapers, feeding, helping dress the baby, or pushing the stroller.
  • If possible, arrange for some one-on-one time with your child once baby arrives where you talk about things besides the new baby.
  • It’s ok for your child to need time to take adjust the new baby.   You can encourage older children to talk about their feelings about their new sibling.
  • Younger children who may not be able to articulate their feelings may act up or test the rules, but stand firm – just understand the feelings behind their behavior. Make it clear that you understand their feelings, but that their feelings must be expressed in appropriate ways.
  • You may want to consider having a small present for your young child when they come to meet the baby for the 1st time – a small gift from the baby to the child.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011 02:11

Teaching Gratitude

Teaching GratitudeThe Christmas decorations have been put away, the kids are back in school and life is back to normal (almost!).

Did you and your kids remember to say thank you for all of your great presents? It’s important that our children learn gratitude, and what better way after the holiday season to teach them to be thankful than to have them send a simple thank you card to their gift givers?

Christmas Thanks :: VidacCoco.com Agradecimiento de Navidad :: VidacCoco.com

While you may want to send a more formal note or make a phone call for your  (hopefully!) great gifts, try out a fun activity with your children.   They can make their own handmade thank you cards or you can easily download our template, available in Spanish and English.

You may download the PDF version or the Word version, which you can personalize and resize.   All you need to do is print out the template, have your child fill in the blanks and send it to that thoughtful gift giver.   You can be sure that their thank you card will be much appreciated!

Downloadable "Christmas Thanks" Templates:

English - Word | English - PDF | Spanish - Word | Spanish PDF

Friday, 22 January 2010 08:56

Birthday Calendar Templates

Children love birthdays...that’s a fact.

Use these handy birthday countdown calendars to help your child see how many more days until “their” day arrives. Personalize them – try adding a picture of your child, changing the colors, get creative!

Use these handy birthday countdown calendars to help your child see how many more days until “their” day arrives. Personalize them – try adding a picture of your child, changing the colors, get creative!

Click on each image to enlarge it, and when you are ready to download them (the files are in Word Format), click one or both of the links below:

[Download BLUE calendar]    [Download PINK calendar]