One Megacoolmama... - ...with fun and healthy ideas for kids! One Megacoolmama…

One Megacoolmama…

…with fun and healthy ideas for kids!

Creative holiday teacher gifts

christmas stocking with gift

 

Ever since my kids started attending preschool, I have made it a priority to treat their teachers well around the holidays.  It could have something to do with the fact that I am a teacher myself, but I truly do appreciate all of the time and effort they put in to helping my children learn and be their best during the day.  I try to shy away from the Pinterest-y cutesy crafty type gifts for two reasons:  1.  I just don’t have the time to be trying (and probably failing!) to do those sorts of things, and 2. I really want to give the teachers something they can use and enjoy themselves.  Below is a list of my go-to’s for gift-giving for teachers.  I use any combination of these ideas for holiday gift-giving and end-of-the-year as well.

1.  Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts gift card- you can never go wrong with this.  Most teachers drink coffee, and if they don’t, then they at least can pick up a yummy treat for themselves.

2.  A heartfelt card from me and/or my children- this is actually one of my favorite things to give and receive as a teacher.  A nice handwritten note from the student just saying thanks for being a great teacher is priceless!

3.  Target gift card-  Yeah, I know.  It’s another gift card.  But, really, “Your teaching is right on Target” with a Target gift card tucked inside is seriously cute AND useful!

4.  Variety of healthy treats- I tend to give this more toward the end of the year, but teachers receive so many holiday cookies and candies that a healthy treat tray is refreshing and better for their health and stamina throughout the day!

5.  A really nice hand cream- Teachers wash their hands A LOT.  Think about how germ-y your kiddo is and times that by 30 (or 150 if you are a high school teacher)– makes you jittery, eh?  Me, too.  Makes sense that teachers would wash their hands at every chance.  Also, that chalk is super drying to the skin.  I love Aveda’s Hand Cream.  My friend also swears by this one called O’Keeffes Working Hands Cream (click on image below to get it).  It’s natural and is the only thing that helps her dry hands in the winter.

 

6.  A good quality chocolate-  I fully realize that this is contradicting my “healthy array of treats” idea from above, but I totally appreciate one piece of awesome quality dark chocolate to a junky plate full of frosting-laden sugar cookies. Green and Black’s is one of my faves (lots of variety and organic!)– they have nifty ten-packs for sale that you can split up between a bunch of people, like teachers, bus drivers, office staff, etc.  

 

Do you have any other creative gift ideas for teachers that you would like to share?  Are you a teacher?  Thoughts on the above?  :)

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Kindle Fire HD or iPad?

As we are quickly approaching Christmas and in the midst of holiday shopping, my husband and I had the inevitable discussion of what worthy and affordable (but also cool) gifts we could get our two older kids (7 and 5)  The thought occurred to my hubby that maybe a new table would be appropriate since currently they share a first generation iPad, and it is old.  We are talking no-camera, no-memory, apps-shut-down-on-their-own OLD.  Now don’t get me wrong, we were SUPER grateful to have received it as a gift from my in-laws almost four years ago, but it is now definitely time to think about some new technology in the Concha household.

So, we did some searching, and, of course, the iPad was what we researched first since we are familiar with it.  Yeah, $299 is the starting price for one of those puppies, so we knew that if we got a new iPad, it would still have to be shared.  There was no way were shucking out that much dinero for TWO new iPads.  Then I started talking to my students, who I consider to be my technology experts/teachers.  (I teach high school kids who know much more about technology than I do).  They presented me with the idea of considering the Kindle Fire HD tablets.  These little gems were priced much lower at $119 a piece (with 16GB of memory).  This definitely meant that we could get two and that each older child would have his/her own tablet.  However, this little gem was, well, little.  At half the size of the iPad, we weren’t certain whether they would appreciate it as much as they did their trusty 9 inch iPad screen.

After comparing prices, functionality, and realizing that as an Amazon Prime member the kids can instantly watch entertainment on their devices for FREE, we decided to go with the Kindle Fire HD with the 6 inch screen for each kid.  And, storage space isn’t much of an issue since the movies, tv programs and music that they access is stored in a “cloud” and not on their devices!  (Space has always been an issue on our iPad).  I also love the fact that the Kindle Fire HD is first and foremost an e-reader.  My kids will be reading for a certain amount of time before they are allowed to play video games or watch anything on their devices.  And, how can I be sure they will do just that?  By downloading the free app from Google Play that allows me to set timers for each activity!  Woohoo!

We are excited to see their little faces light up when they get their new technological toys.  It was a struggle at first trying to decide which tablet to go with, but we feel like we have made the right decision.  What does everyone else think between the two devices I discussed here?  Does anyone have a Kindle Fire HD?  I would love to hear about your favorite apps for your little ones!

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A New Year filled with fun activities for the kids!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, we are FREEZING right now!  It is so cold, as a matter of fact, that the kids can’t even go out and enjoy the 10+ inches of snow because of bitter wind chill factors.  So, now you are stuck with bored kids in the house all day, right?  Wrong!  Well, maybe the kids in the house part is true, but you can combat boredom with a few activities and games that will keep those kiddos busy and even off of technology for a while!

I did my research and bought all of these products for my own children, so I am personally recommending the following for a boredom-free day stuck inside:

1.  Melissa and Doug’s Suspend game (4.5 stars on Amazon)

This game has kept my six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter busy for quite a long time!  I know the recommended age is for ages 8 and up, but, with some supervision, this game can definitely be played by younger kids.  My son loves trying to pile the pieces onto the suspend bar to see how far he can get without it falling.  My daughter got the hang of it fairly quickly after watching her big brother, but she just needs reminders every now and then to be careful when placing the pieces on the game.  This game teaches precision, patience, and engineering!  It receives 4.5 stars on the Amazon website, and that is what I would give it myself!

 

2.  Perplexus Twist (4.5 stars on Amazon)

This game was given to my son as a gift for Christmas after seeing how much he liked it when we were at a Barnes and Noble store this summer.  The object of the game is to get the little metal ball into the point zones inside of the maze in the ball.  Though not a novel idea, the way this game is set up presents unexpected twists and turns so that one really has to think about how the ball will fall.  Also, the ability to actually twist the bottom half (or upper half, depending upon which way you look at it) makes for a fun brain-teaser which stimulates abstract thinking and planning in your little one.  My son literally chose to play with this game over the iPad, so I would say it does it’s job at keeping little ones engaged!

 

3.  K’nex 521 Piece Value Tub (4-4.5 stars on Amazon)

I have actually enjoyed the creativity that this little tub of wonders has inspired in both my children and myself!  Currently, this is on sale for $19.50 on Amazon, which is a lower price than the 375-piece set, so I would say this is a bargain!  My son has been a Lego addict lately, so I decided to spice things up a bit and give him this block set for Christmas.  Though the pieces are small (which is the one drawback to this toy), my son has been able to construct some very creative inventions with the variety of pieces included.  My daughter does not play with this as much, but she enjoys watching her big brother make the creations she demands, such as flowers and butterflies, with his new blocks!  The variety of shapes and colors of pieces helps keep interest and new ideas sparking time after time of playing with the set.

There are a lot of other educational toys out there that deserve the same attention the above ones have gotten, but the few that I chose to review and recommend here in this post are ones that we have recently experienced.  Be on the lookout for more personal recommendations and another fun treat to come soon- an e-book with ideas on how to keep kids busy and entertained on those bad weather days!

 

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“SeriouslyAmazing.com” is seriously fun for rainy days!

SeriouslyAmazing.com

SeriouslyAmazing.com

 

Lately, I have been doing some serious searching for educational (yet fun) websites and apps that I can use with my two kids.  This has become especially useful during the winter and spring months here, since all we seem to get are snowy, windy and rainy days anymore!  I heard about this SeriouslyAmazing website on the radio, actually, and decided to investigate.  This site is run by the experts at the Smithsonian Museum and gives detailed and interactive answers to questions like the ones you see above in the picture.  My almost six-year-old son has actually asked me some of these questions, such as the “What exactly does a bear do in the woods?” one.  So, we investigated the answer to that and were pleasantly surprised with not only an explanation, but with a link to real footage from a camera that films animals candidly out in their natural environments…how cool!  This site is not only seriously cool for kids (and parents, too), but it has a kid-friendly set-up (with bright, vivid colors and images to accompany questions).  Also, being run by the Smithsonian gives it tons of credibility in this educator’s book!  Try it out with your kids and tell us in the comments something that you learned!  Have fun!

 

 

 

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Rainy Days prize package from Melissa and Doug and Highlights for Kids!

 

Rainy Day Giveaway

Starting today and going until April 10, 2013, you can enter a contest sponsored by Melissa and Doug toys and Highlights to win a “Rainy Days” prize package for your little ones!  You will need to have a Pinterest account to enter, since it does require making a board and pinning some things from their websites.  We love Melissa and Doug toys at my house because they are really good quality, so this contest will definitely be worth my time!  Have fun browsing their website and good luck in the contest!

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Lunch box notes can make your little one’s day!

Lunch box notes to brighten your little one's day!

Lunch box notes to brighten your little one’s day!

One thing that I have found as a simple way to keep a connection going between my son and I (since he started going to full-time kindergarten this year) is by putting little notes in his lunch box.  He loves finding a different note in his lunch every day, and, now that he can read, he is proud to be able to understand them!  I started out by buying a generic few from Target, but then I ended up designing my own to use as well.  Check my most recent revision to my Free Printables page to download your own copy of lunch box notes to let your little ones know you are thinking about them even during the middle of their school day!  :)

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Super foods for your little ones!

human hand with green apple

 

With Spring getting into full swing, Old Man Winter is still giving us a battle by leaving our little ones with remnants of the germs spread during the cold.  To help your kiddos fight off that last winter cold or flu, make sure they are getting plenty of the following foods in their diets.  Each food, according to Parenting magazine, is a “Super food” that will help your kids’ immune systems be at their strongest!  I have provided my take on each food and ideas for incorporating them into your family’s meals.  Super foods = super healthy!

  1. Eggs- these offer protein, which helps kids feel satisfied longer after eating breakfast.  They are also a natural source of Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.  My daughter likes her egg fried in some nonstick olive oil spray with a little sprinkle of herbs on the top.
  2. Oatmeal- high fiber + whole grains = a winning breakfast and good combination for helping kids focus in school.  I like oatmeal from the brand Better Oats.  It is all-natural and comes in yummy flavors, such as dark chocolate, blueberry and maple strudel!  Throw in some fruit and milk to drink and your kid’s breakfast is complete!
  3. Fruit- any kind is an integral part of a child’s diet, but a variety is best in order to get all of the nutrients the different kinds of fruits provide!  In my household, my kids and I make fruit smoothies  together- a fun and nutritious way to get all that fruit in!
  4. Nuts- good source of healthy fats, which help with growth and brain development.  This is great for a little burst of energy in the morning or for part of an afternoon snack.  Also, walnuts are packed with lignans, which have been shown to fight off free radicals that cause disease.
  5. Milk- provides protein and calcium- need I say more?  We like Trader Joe’s organic milk, and occasionally we will drink Horizon Farms organic milk.  Milk is one of my main products that I buy organic in order to try and avoid exposure to the hormones that are used to process non-organic milk products.
  6. Blueberries- provide antioxidants, help protect against heart disease and diabetes, and fight build-up of visceral belly fat!  Serve as a side of fruit, in yogurt, on top of oatmeal/cereal, or on top of a stick of celery spread with cream cheese.
  7. Tofu- excellent source of lean protein and gives potent anti-cancer benefits
  8. Tomatoes- have lots of lycopene, which has been shown to protect against many cancers.  Try this recipe  for my healthy pasta in order to help give your kids their serving of tomatoes!
  9. Low-fat Greek yogurt- contains bacteria that boost immunity and help with digestion for your little one’s tummies.  It also has three times the protein and much less sugar than your typical yogurt.  Add a drip of honey or maple syrup to the yogurt to make it more palatable for the kiddos.
  10. Cabbage- contains phytonutrients that help lower the risk for cancer and also aids in digestion.  Shredded cabbage is fun to throw over soups as a garnish or even to use in a cole slaw recipe.
  11. Salmon- has lots of healthy omega-3 fats, which help in brain development and act as an anti-inflammatory.  This can be a tricky one for kids to eat, but my little ones like a bit of healthy breading on the outside (Trader Joe’s sells some good salmon fillets that can be baked).
  12. Cocoa- has high concentrations of flavonoids, known to promote good heart health and improve blood pressure.  Hot cocoa…need I say more?
  13. Black beans- great source of protein, fiber, and calcium.  They help guard against heart disease and high cholesterol.  Use these as just a plain side dish, as part of a “Make-your-own-fajita night”, or smash them and mix with some lemon juice and cumin for a quick veggie dip!
  14. Basil- who woulda thought?  This herb is packed with antioxidants and can help aid in digestion.  Use it as an ingredient in my pasta recipe (linked in the tomato section above)!
  15. Cinnamon- can help regulate blood sugar and helps with circulation.  Sprinkle this on cereal, oatmeal, toast, yogurt and in any baked goods that you whip up!
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Annie’s Homegrown Promotion and Coupons!

I had to share…one of my favorite companies for healthy kids’ food, Annie’s Homegrown, is offering up some coupons for a little money off some of their snacks!  Not only that, but you can get a free herb kit by mailing in receipts and joining their “Ecobonus program”!  I have never seen a rewards plan before for Annie’s products, so I am pretty excited that they are offering one now!  I actually buy Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies every week for my son’s lunches, and I splurge on Annie’s Mac & Cheese for the kiddos as well (my husband really likes it, too!).  So, my points should start adding up fairly quickly.  I will have a whole garden of herbs before you know it!  Check out the promotion here.

 

(image courtesy of Annie’s ecobonus.com website)

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After a little break…

So, it’s definitely been a while since I have posted…to tell you the truth, I was having a hard time trying to decide the direction of the site and what exactly I wanted it to do for those who read it.  As I sifted through all my previous posts, I realized that I was turning more into one of those “deal-of-the-day” websites, and that is NOT what I wanted.  My initial goal of starting this blog was to help out anyone who could benefit from my own life experiences.  I was spending way too much time scouring the Web for good deals (which, yes, benefited some people, but did not serve the purpose of what I wanted my page to be), and not enough time just being.  That’s it…just being.

 

So, from now on, my posts will take on the format that I originally had planned…organic, positive vibe, happy family, healthy you kind-of-stuff.  If that occasionally means that I want to share an extra good bargain with you, so be it.  But, I needed to take this page in a different direction, and this post explaining that direction is where I felt I needed to start.

 

My hope is that all who visit my page will get something positive from it.  May you continue to be the amazing person you are and were always meant to be!  And, with that, I leave you with some more-than-wise words from the amazing Dalai Lama:

 

“Every day, think as you wake up…

‘Today, I am fortunate to have woken up.  I am  alive.

I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself,

To expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the

benefit of all beings.  I am going to have kind thoughts toward others.

I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.

I am going to benefit others as much as I can.'”

Image used from http://adnamac.deviantart.com/art/Peaceful-Reflection-38187536

 

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Healthy snack idea for kids for July 4! 7/3

Are you looking for a kid-friendly healthy snack idea for July 4?  Well, then you have come to the right place because I have a little example to show you of what I did with my little ones!  Honestly, what I did was very simple, but sometimes it takes someone else to point it out before we realize the ease with which we can actually do something healthy.  Here is the patriotic snack that my kiddos and I made:

Yum!

 

What you need:

-fresh strawberries

-fresh blueberries

-celery sticks

-mini snack crackers (or regular size will work…I used the Trader Joe’s mini snack crackers)

-light whipped cream cheese

-kid-safe knife (I use and LOVE the IKEA brand of tableware for the kids.  The knives are safe and excellent for little hands that are just learning to cut and spread!)

 

What to do:

1.  You will need to wash the strawberries and blueberries first.  Then, cut the tops with stems off of the strawberries and toss them.

2.  Next, slice some of the strawberries width-wise (so that they make nice circular shapes when sliced) and some length-wise (so that the slices are longer and narrower).

3.  Then take the snack crackers and spread a bit of cream cheese on each one.

4.  Top each cracker with one circular strawberry slice and one blueberry.

5.  Evenly spread some cream cheese on to each celery stick.

6.  Top the celery stick with the long strawberry slices and two to three blueberries.

7.  Enjoy!

 

What the kids can help with:

-washing of the fruit

-taking crackers out of the box and counting them

-spreading the cream cheese on the crackers and celery sticks (with a kid-safe knife or spatula)

-placing the strawberry slices and blueberries on top of the crackers and celery

-EATING THEM!

 

Come back and let me know if you and your little ones did this!  Also, this would be a great snack/appetizer to serve at a Fourth of July BBQ!  That is what we will be doing!  :)  Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

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