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Tips for New Hockey Moms {and a chance to win a bike from Canadian Tire}

I am not an expert when it comes to hockey, but I am a mom of 3 hockey loving boys.  When they started playing hockey a few years ago, I didn't have a clue about what gear they needed or how to put it on, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips with all the NEW hockey moms out there.

First of all, you need to get the right equipment.  We started with the youth hockey starter kit from Canadian Tire, and then we added the other gear we needed.  (It is definitely the cheapest way to get started).  

Basically, you'll need: skates (which are usually 1 size smaller than the child's shoe size), a stick (with a curve that fits the way they shoot), an approved helmet with a face mask, gloves, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads, hockey pants, an equipment bag, jock/jill protective shorts, a neck guard, hockey socks, a jersey, hockey tape, and a water bottle.

Then, once you have all the gear, you'll need to know how to put it on.  Here's an easy step by step tutorial:

1)  Start with the clothes that you want to wear under the child's gear.  (My boys always wear long underwear (or PJs for early morning practices).
2)  Pull on the jock/jill shorts (which have velcro on them to hold up the hockey socks).
3)  Put on the shin pads (which are marked left/right).
4)  Put the hockey socks on over the shin pads, and secure the tops with the velcro on the shorts.
5)  Pull the hockey pants on over the shin pads and hockey socks.
6)  Put the shoulder pads over the child's head, and secure with the velcro.
7)  Secure the elbow pads (which are marked left/right) with the velcro.
8)  Put the jersey on over the shoulder pads and elbow pads.
9)  Don't forget the neck guard.
10) Buckle the helmet so that it is secure.
11) Pop on the gloves and skates, and hit the ice!

My boys are lucky to be able to participate in a variety of after school activities, but for many families finances are a barrier to participation in organized sports.  Luckily, Canadian Tire helps many families through their Jumpstart program.  In fact, between 2005 and 2013, Jumpstart has helped 23,000 kids in my province of Nova Scotia, and in September, Jumpstart will be helping more kids through their Pedal for Kids ride.

Check out Pedal for Kids Across Canada contest here.  By clicking the link and entering the contest, you will help my bike move across the map... and you will be entered in a contest for a chance to win one of TEN Schwinn bikes.

Good luck with the contest, and if you have a little one playing sports this winter or fall, have fun!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am taking part in the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Pedal For Kids blog campaign. While I have received compensation as part of my affiliation with this program, the opinions shared are my own.

Alphabet Crafts - A to Z

Several months ago, my youngest son and I decided to "craft our way through the alphabet".  We had a lot of fun, and we successfully completed 26 alphabet crafts.  

Fun, right?  Below, you will find links to tutorials for all of the adorable alphabet crafts we completed.  You will also find free printable printing practice sheets for each of the letters.

A is for Apple

B is for Bunny Ears

C is for Caterpillar

D is for Dog

E is for Elephant

F is for Face... and Feelings

G is for Guitar

H is for Hat

I is for Ice Cream

J is for Jet

K is for Kite

L is for Lion

M is for Monkey

N is for Necktie

O is for Octopus

P is for Pirate Ship

Q is for Queen's Crown

R is for Rabbit

S is for Snake

T is for Turtle

U is for Umbrella

V is for Vase

W is for Windsock

X is for Xylophone

Y is for Yarn

Z is for Zebra

I hope you enjoy these alphabet crafts as much as we did.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

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Simple Backyard Water Park

The boys and I are finishing up our summer checklist, and a couple of days ago we had a fantastic day with our simple backyard water park.

This is a simple idea, but it is guaranteed to please on a hot summer day.  Just use whatever you have to create some "water stations".  In the past we have used sponges, spray bottles, sprinklers, kiddie pools, water balloons, etc...

Here's what we did this year:

I filled 50 water balloons.  They played water balloon catch, they played "soldiers" with water balloon "bombs", and they played water balloon batting practice.

We made homemade bubbles (12 cups of water, 2 cups of dishwashing liquid, and 1 cup of light corn syrup).

We had a huge water fight.

And we played with a giant spiderman slip and slide that I bought on clearance at the end of summer last year.

The boys played with their water park all afternoon, and I think it was a great way to take advantage of one of the last hot summer days.  Have you ever created a simple backyard water park with your little ones?  What station did they like the best?

Gina Bell (aka East CoastMommy)

First Day of School Class Treats {free printable tags}

My boys are heading back to school soon, and in keeping with tradition, they will be bringing a little treat for their classmates on the first day of school.  This year, all three of my boys are taking little bags of goldfish with an adorable tag that says, "O-FISH-ally wishing you a fantastic first day of school!" 

Isn't it cute?  You can download a 4X6 version of the tag I designed by right clicking on the picture below, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular photo. (There are three tags on each sheet.)

Once the tags are printed, cut each photo into three tags, and staple a tag to the top of each bag.  

Don't you just love how sweet and simple this idea is?  My boys are really excited about sharing these treats with their little friends.

Do your kids like to bring a class treat on the first day of school or do you have a different first day of school tradition?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Simplifying Daily Clean Up

I recently received a new Orbit Clean Dishwasher from Frigidaire, and the company asked me to write about how I use my dishwasher to simplify the daily clean up in my home.  With three busy boys, keeping up with housework can be a challenge, but I have a few tips that help me keep things (somewhat) under control.  Here are 5 Tips (I use) for Simplifying Daily Cleanup:

1)  Don't let dishes and laundry pile up - Put dishes in the dishwasher after every meal, and make sure the kids learn to put their dirty clothes in the hamper as soon as they take them off.  It is important to stay on top of dishes and laundry so that they don't become overwhelming.

2)  Sweep after every meal - My boys have trouble eating over their plates, so I try to quickly sweep my kitchen after every meal... before my boys can track crumbs through the rest of the house.

3)  Make sure everything has a place - It can be challenging, but I try to make sure everything has a place.  If every coat has a hook, it is less likely to end up on the floor.  (e.g. You can check out my "Makeshift Mudroom" here.)

4)  Get the kids to help - Make it simple for kids to help by teaching them where things go.  In our house, we have labelled toy bins, so it is easy for my boys to find things and put them away when they have finished.  (You can check out my "Toy Storage Solution" here.)

5)  Do a little every day - There is nothing worse than a big weekend clean up, so try and do a little every day.  "Wing it" (like I do) or set up a little schedule.  (e.g. Clean the toilets on Mondays, dust half the rooms on Tuesdays, dust the rest of the house on Wednesdays, etc...)  Doing 15 minutes each day keeps things under control.

As you can imagine, a dishwasher is a valuable appliance in my house, and my new Orbit Clean Dishwasher from Frigidaire has all the features I need to keep up with the mess created by my busy boys. I need clean dishes that I don't need to rinse before washing them, and I don't need to dry after the dishwasher has stopped, and my new dishwasher meets this "must have" criteria.
I also like the fact that my new dishwasher easily fits all of my dishes because of the adjustable top rack -- and it even has a special spot for my wine glasses and coffee pot!

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to managing daily clean up?  Do you have any tips to share?  I can use all the help I can get!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Frigidaire Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

11 Tips for Preparing Kids for Starting School

My youngest son is starting school for the first time in September, so I thought it was a good time to share some tips to help parents prepare their kids for starting school. Some of these tips are based on my own experience (as a mom), and others came from some great teachers I know.

Here are 11 great ways to prepare kids for the transition to "big school":

1)  Read books to your child so that they see reading as a source of enjoyment.  In preparation for school, you can choose some books with a "starting school" theme.  Our two favorites are: The Kissing Hand and Llama Llama Loves his Mama.

2)  Have your child practice printing his/her name with an uppercase letter as the first letter, followed by lowercase letters.  Also, practice recognizing the other letters of the alphabet.  While you are reading to your child, point out letters, and have them identify them.

3)  Teach your child to go to the bathroom on their own.  Take them to a public washroom, and have them do everything themselves.  Teach them how to lock and unlock a stall door, use soap, get paper towel from a towel dispenser, unbutton and button their own pants, and wipe their own bum.

4)  Practice getting dressed.  Practice buttons and zippers, and if they can't tie, buy velcro sneakers.

5)  Think about lunches.  Have your child practice opening containers, and talk about healthy meal options for them.  Also, don't be worried if the lunch box comes home full at first.  Sometimes lunch at school can be overwhelming and takes getting used to. Encourage your kids to eat their lunch at school, but if it comes home, they can finish it as an after school snack.

6) Talk about what will happen.  Before the big day, talk about what will happen... e.g. you'll take the bus, you'll have your own desk, you'll eat lunch in the cafeteria, you'll play outside after lunch, etc...  It can also be helpful to tour the school and visit the playground before the first day.

7)  Label everything.  Your child will lose some of their belongings, and labels will help you get them back.  (You can support my blog by purchasing labels through this link.  Thank you!)

8)  Start traditions.  The first day of "big school" is the perfect time to start first day of school traditions.  You can read about our families first day of school traditions here.

9)  Get up early on the first day, and make sure clothes and lunches are taken care of the night before.  Being organized will help ensure that the child doesn't feel rushed, and this will eleviate unnecessary stress on the first day.  It might even be worth a "first day run through" the day before.

10)  Keep the lines of communications open.  Often children are tired after school, and this makes them reluctant to talk about their day.  I find that it helps if I ask specific questions after school.  e.g. Who did you play with at recess?  Who did you play with at lunch time?  What did you do when you played outside?  Did you make any crafts today?  What was your favorite part of the day?  Were you a good listener today? What was the worst part of your day, etc.....

11)  Empty back packs and do homework as soon as you get home from school (if possible).  This is a great habit to get into... and the sooner the better.

What is your best tip for new moms and dads that have little ones heading to school for the first time?  Did it make my list?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Tips for Teaching Kids about Giving Back... and a $100 #RockTheHalls giveaway from Sears - CLOSED

Winner of the giveaway is Andrea_hockeygirl.

Last weekend, my boys hosted a yard sale and lemonade stand with 100% of the proceeds going to Cystic Fibrosis.  They collected old toys, made signs, baked cookies, and waited on customers, and they raised $264.35.  It was a proud mommy moment for me.

When it comes to teaching kids about giving back, here are some tips I have found helpful:

1)  Let the kids pick a charity or cause that is meaningful to them.  (My boys have a little cousin with Cystic Fibrosis, so it makes them feel good knowing that they are helping make him better.)

2)  Let the kids decide what to do.  (My boys have organized Christmas parties, sold toys, and worked lemonade stands.)

3)  Let the kids do the work.  (They will feel more connected to the act of giving, if they are doing the work themselves.)

My boys aren't the only ones spreading kindness... Sears is also working hard to "give back" during this back to school season.  In addition to their great work with the Boys and Girls Club of Canada (see below)*, they have been surprising customers (in store and online this month) with free purchases.  (Check out the link to see how much fun they are having surprising their customers.)  

Sears has also offered to give away a $100 gift card to one of my lucky readers to help with their back to school shopping.  Just visit Sears (here), and let me know what you would buy with your $100 gift card to help your little one #RockTheHalls this year.  Leave your answer in the comments below, and don't forget to leave your email address (if it isn't linked to your profile) so that I can contact you if you win.  

Sears carries a variety of top quality brands at reasonable prices – and carries all the styles your kids love, so I am sure you'll have fun with this contest.

Good luck!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears Back to School Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Contest Rules:
1) The winner of the contest will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.
2) To enter the contest, you must leave a comment on this post. Contest is open to Canadian residents over the age 18 (excluding Quebec).  You can enter across multiple blogs, but you can only win once.
3) This contest is not being hosted or sanctioned in any way by Facebook.
4)  Contest closes on August 25, 2014 at 11:59pm.
5)  Prize will be accepted as awarded.  If you win, you can expect to receive your prize 4-6 weeks after the contest closes.
6)  Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected. 

*Sears Canada have been a proud supporter for over 40 years of Boys and Girls Club across Canada (BGCC), Canada’s leading provider of quality after school programs that support the healthy physical, educational, social and mental development of Canadian children and youth. Sears shares Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s philosophy that providing all Canadian children and youth with access to opportunity is essential to helping them achieve their full potential and create a better future.  To help out with this year’s back-to-school season, Sears Canada and Converse will be providing the GBCC with $10,000 worth of BTS Apparel!
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