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15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids

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Some children love to play outside. Others are a little harder to coax off the couch. What about you? Do you get outside much? The fresh air and activity is good for everyone!  15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca P. Cohen encourages parents to get outside with their kids for at least fifteen minutes a day. Fifteen minutes may not be a lot of time but the effects can make a noticeable difference. The book 15 Minutes Outside arms you with 365 ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids. The collection of activities is simple yet inspiring. Each one requires little planning, time, cash or patience making them perfect for everyone, no matter their circumstances. 15 Minutes Outside provides you with hundreds of easy ways to get outside with your family to enjoy a little bit of nature every day of the year.

Last-Minute Back-to-School Preparation

Think you’re ready for the school year? Make sure you’re prepared with these last-minute back-to-school tips:

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Credit: GoodHousekeeping

Planners: Give older kids their own planner to teach them time management. Make sure they transfer the family calendar events at least once a week and also add as things come up. Before they start their homework, have them check their planner so they can prioritize assignments and ensure none are forgotten about.

Organization: Instead of a bulky binder, consider getting your kid a notebook with tear-out pages and an accordion file folder. Your student can take notes in class and easily slip the pages or any handouts into the slots. When the week is over, he can empty the contents into a color-coded filing box at home for easy access.

Craft Supplies: Kids tend to procrastinate. Make sure you are stocked up on all the supplies your kids may need for projects such as markers, index cards, poster boards, etc. When you’re helping them finish it at 9pm the night before it’s due, you’ll be thankful you’re prepared.

Deal Alert: What to Buy in August

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Back-to-school and end-of-summer sales make August the ideal time for shop for the bellow items:

-       Linens & Storage Containers: Stores stock up on items perfect for college students shopping for dorm necessities. If you need bed sheets, storage containers or any other dorm-friendly materials, take advantage of the college sales.

-       Office Furniture: Back-to-schools sales are a prime time to shop for office furniture. Consider investing in your deskfiles cabinets or office chairs in the next few weeks.

-       Kids’ Clothing: The school year is approaching, which means parents are busy shopping for their kids’ wardrobe. There are tons of good deals in August—make sure to buy your kid’s clothes while the prices are low.

-       School Supplies: Even if you aren’t buying them for your kids, school supplies such as pens, paper and folders will be at affordable prices during the back-to-school sales.

-       Swimsuits: With summer coming to an end, stores will be clearing out their summer attire, which means swimsuits will have huge discounts. Take advantage of the low prices and get your swimsuit for next year now.

 

Study For Success: Creating the Ultimate Homework Space

Having a good study environment is important for students of all ages. Transform your office space into a study oasis with the tips below:

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Organization: If you have several family members using the study space, keeping everyone’s stuff organized is essential. Consider using file totes, file cabinets or Pottery Barn wall organization systems to sort out everyone’s documents. Adding a bulletin board or dry erase board to the space is a convenient way to post helpful reminders, grades and to-do lists.

 

Storage: Shelves are perfect for storing school and office supplies—put storage bins on the bottom shelves so your kids can access the supplies stored in them on their own. Make sure everything is labeled for quick and easy access.

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Credit: Real Simple

Furniture: Not all studying has to take place at a desk. Include unique and comfortable seating options like a beanbag for an alternate place to get work done. In addition, portable laptop desks provide a nice writing surface no matter where your kids are studying.

 

 

 

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: Mr.Dad’s Armin Brott

For those who still haven’t gotten around to back-to-school shopping, have no fear. Check out this edition of our back-to-school shopping Q&A series with super dad Armin Brott from Mr.Dad, who shares his back-to-school shopping expertise.

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What are the must-have items on your kids’ back to school shopping list?

I can’t decide between a backpack with wheels so my daughter can carry all her stuff without doing any long term damage to her back or a much smaller backpack that would keep her from schlepping so much stuff in the first place.

What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Group the kids together by age and make separate trips for each group (or individual). Older kids won’t have the patience to deal with buying glue sticks and colored markers for little kids. And the little kids won’t have the attention span to endure waiting for tweens or teens to agonize over which color mechanical pencils to buy.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

They should avoid buying a lot of clothes–especially for middle schoolers and above. The real trends will be established after school starts, when the kids have a chance to scope each other out. If you’ve bought your child something that seemed like it might be cool but turns out not to be, you’ll have wasted your time and money.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

When it comes to all those classroom supplies—binders, folders, paper, pencils, markers, etc.—parents should get together with other parents and order all those thing in bulk. It’ll be a lot cheaper that way. Better yet, contact the school and have them order all the supplies for all the classrooms, then bill the parents. Besides saving parents a ton of time and money, this approach would also help the environment by eliminating hundreds of car trips, thereby reducing pollution and fuel use. Of course, there’s looking for coupons, shopping the sales and holding out for the buy-on-get-one deals. Also go through your house before you go to the store. Chances are your child didn’t use up last year’s paper, pencils, etc. and stashed them under his or her bed. There are probably a lot of things you can buy less of or skip altogether.

How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?

Spread it out over a few weeks. There’s no reason why all the shopping has to be done in one day. For older kids, give them the amount of money you’d spend on clothes and let them make their own decisions—with the understanding that if they blow it all on a fancy pair of jeans, they’re going to be out of luck for a few months.

How does online shopping aide in your back to school purchasing?

It can save you a ton of time on anything that doesn’t need to be tried on (like clothes). If you’re pooling resources with other parents or school administrators (see above), buying online is really the only way to go.

How do you work out wish-list discrepancies with your kids?

Give the kids more say in the matter. Make lists of everything that’s needed and estimate how much it will cost. Tell the kids that once required items are purchased, they can spend the money anyway they like. If they come in under budget, they can keep the difference. If they’re over budget, they’ll have to dig into their own savings or make arrangements with you to work it off.

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Armin Brott has been building better fathers for more than a decade. He is the author of eight bestselling books on fatherhood, has written for dozens of major publications and websites and been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows. As a trusted spokesperson, Armin speaks on fatherhood around the country and teaches classes for expectant and new dads. Armin lives with his family in Oakland, California.

For more updates from Armin, follow him on Twitter at @mrdad or like Mr.Dad on Facebook.

Gadgets for Your Little Students

Help your little ones do well in the upcoming school year with these kid-friendly gadgets:

     

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VTech MobiGo: The VTech MobiGo Learning System features a touchscreen that allows your kids to look, listen and touch while playing educational games and activities that help them learn math, vocabulary, spelling, logic and more. The system comes equipped with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and one cartridge.

 

VTech V.Reader: Give your child an e-reader of their own. The VTech V.reader is an interactive e-book reader that helps your child become a confident and fluent reader. The fully narrated, animated stories come as downloads or cartridges and the device also has reading skill games and a dictionary.

 

“Teach Me Time” Alarm Clock: Waking up for school can be hard for little ones—especially if it’s on the wrong side of the bed. If your youngster is still learning to tell time, the “Teach Me Time” Alarm Clock can help. The alarm clock has interactive time-telling games, turns green when it’s OK to get out of bed and doubles as a night light.

 

LeapPad2: This kid-friendly tablet is like an iPad for your kids. The LeapPad2 has front-and-back cameras, a 5-inch touch screen with an attached stylus, 4GB of onboard memory and a library of hundreds of educational games, apps, eBooks and videos.

Funky Flames Add Fun to Summer Campfires

This summer whether you’re enjoying your backyard fire pit or sitting around a campfire while camping, make it a colorful experience with Funky Colored Flames.  You can turn any ordinary wood burning fire into a personal light show.  Safe for use indoors and out, Funky Flames Fire Color Changers change the color of the flames.  Just sprinkle a packet of Funky Flames on your fire and watch as the colored flame crystals burn blue, green and purple.  Each packet of crystals will burn for about 30 minutes. Sold in a box of three for around $6, this novelty is fun for campfires and bonfires but is not to be used while cooking food over the fire.  Campfires are mesmerizing as-is, imagine their beauty with Funky Flames!

 

101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: The Entertainment Solution for Parents, Relatives & Babysitters!

Every parent dreads the words “I’m bored”, especially during summer break. The 2 bloggers behind KidsActivitiesBlog.com wanted to provide entertainment solutions for parents, relatives and baby sitters so they created 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever! which includes boredom busters, pranks, crafts, games, simple science experiments and other things to do with kids.

This is a great book for babysitters!  It’s also a great guide for parents that could use a little help in the creativity department.  The activities in the book were selected to keep kids laughing and learning for hours.  From spray bottle freeze tag to tissue box monster shoes, both indoor and outdoor activities offer never ending family fun.  The book is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 10, 2014.

 

 

Back-to-School: College Edition

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Credit: money.cnn.com

Know someone heading off to college? Help them feel prepared with the top must-have items for college we’ve listed below:

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Credit: Men’s Health, Wrldpup.com

Beats by Dre Mixr Headphones: Whether they’re walking to class or trying to study, your college kid will be thankful for a good pair of headphones. Beats by Dre Mixr are high-quality headphones that include smart features such as input jacks on both the left and right sides (so you don’t have to awkwardly stretch the wires to reach where you need to plug them in) and volume controls built into the cord. The headphones pivot 270 degrees for extra versatility.

Dolce Gusto Single Serving Coffee Maker: With long days, all-night study seshes and early morning classes, coffee is a college necessity. The Dolce Gusto Single Serving Coffee Maker lets students easily brew a super-fast latte, cappuccino or cup o’ joe from a Nescafe single-serving capsule.

Belkin Conserve AV Switch: Money is tight in college. The Belkin Conserve AV Switch helps students save money on electricity. The surge protector fits into any standard electrical outlet and allows you to automatically turn off power flow to any device that’s fully charged, conserving energy. The switch has ten sockets, including two that are “always on” for items that should always have power and even comes with a remote that controls the outlets.

Everything College CookBook: For many, college is the first time they try their hand at cooking. Don’t let your student cave into a daily Cup of Ramen meal. The Everything College Cookbook has 300 hassle-free recipes created specifically with busy college students in mine. With recipes that use a hot plate, studio stove or microwave, they’ll find everything they need for a delicious and satisfying college meal.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: Mommies with Cents’ Holly Duce

Ready for the back-to-school shopping season? In this edition of our back-to-school shopping Q&A series, parenting and shopping pro Holly Duce from Mommies with Cents shares her back-to-school shopping expertise.

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What are the must-have items on your kids’ back to school shopping list?

For our family, we have a few must-have basics that help stretch the kids’ wardrobes from summer to fall and winter. We stock up on long sleeve tees and thermal shirts for both boys and girls and basic black and grey leggings for the girls. The long sleeved shirts can be worn under sleeveless dresses and short sleeve tees when the weather cools down. Leggings can be added under dresses for the same reason. Jeans for all of the kids are also a must.

What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Definitely budget a little more for the older children. They’ll have more specific requests for name brands, etc., while the little ones won’t care as much. Also, purchasing better quality clothing for the older children means they’ll be more likely to be passed down.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Avoid last minute shopping, especially on weekends. If possible, start shopping mid-summer. Visit stores during the morning hours on weekdays to avoid crowds.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Shop summer clearance for cool tees that can be layered with thermal shirts or long sleeve tees for the fall and winter
How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?

Do the majority of the shopping alone, without children. Buy socks, underwear, jeans — all the basics. Then plan an outing with each child separately to pick up a few things to add their personal touches and to buy shoes so they can try them on!

How much time and money should families allocate?

It’s a good idea to set a budget before hand to avoid overspending but this number depends on the needs of each family as well as their financial situation. As far as time, if you aren’t doing any online shopping, plan on at least 2-3 outings for school supplies and clothing. If you try to squeeze everything into one day, be prepared for some frustration and extra stops as you likely won’t find everything you need at the store(s) you plan to shop at.

How does online shopping aide in your back to school purchasing?

Online shopping is a huge time saver for me and it also helps me to plan and budget better. Plus, I can take advantage of online discounts and cash back from sites like Ebates and Extrabux.

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Holly Duce is a mom of 3 young children and a former nanny. She currently spends her time writing for her blog Mommies with Cents to help families save money and discover useful new products. She enjoys shopping, spending time with family and traveling.

For more updates from Holly, like Mommies with Cents on Facebook or follow her on Twitter at @mommieswithcent.