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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

14 Fantastic Back to School Fonts

I'm a fontphile.  I love a good font.  With all my digital designing, I have hundreds of fonts on my computer.  It's bad enough that I can often tell you the name of a font just by looking at it.  Yeah, it's bad.  But, it's also good...

Check out all these awesome fonts for your back to school projects.  All fonts are free and commercial use.  Links to download are below the image.  So... which one is your favorite?

This post was written by Krista and originally appeared on While He Was Napping.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Momma's Back to School Essentials

Links in this post may be affiliate links.  Any purchases made through these links will give me a super small commission (like 4% small).  Your cost is in no way affected and I appreciate any support you may be inclined to give to While He Was Napping.  Mostly, it's an easy way to put pretty pictures in my posts without hours of staging and editing photos, so just enjoy the pictures.  

Have you entered back into the school scene yet?  Big J started Kindergarten today.  Ohmigosh, 'scuse me while I hyperventilate for a second.  I can't be old enough to have a kindergartener............. alas, it's true.  We dropped him off with his cute little backpack and lunch bag, in a school uniform and handed over a bag of supplies to his teacher this morning.  He was so excited.  (His momma is a bit nervous... and a little excited too.  We had to cut out his nap time this summer (he was all kinds of sad about that, I'm sure you can imagine...) to get him ready for all day school, but that meant no break for momma.  So, it will be nice to have nap time back.)

Anyway, I digress.  There are all kinds of lists of supplies to help this school year be a success.  Big J's was surprisingly short actually.  But, don't worry about me, I've got my own (maybe not so) little list to make sure our whole family runs smoothly this year.  Arranging and keeping track of five busy people isn't an easy task and these are my secret go-to items to make sure our wheels keep on turning around here.

1. A calendar.  I have... uhm, four.  And possibly a calendar addiction.  I have my Master Calendar on the fridge, my digital calendar on my phone, my meal plan calendar, my blog calendar and my daily calendar (to-do list).  Oh, uhm, so I guess there's five...  There's a lot going on around here.  I HAVE to write everything down, some times more than once.  I have our lives on paper and digitally recorded.  There are lots of calendar apps out there, but I just use the stock Google Calendar app on my Android phone as my digital tracker.  I am a visual person and being able to see the craziness of our lives hanging on the wall (or in the palm of my hand) is something I need.  A reusable monthly Master Calendar is essential to our family.  

via Amazon
2.  Meal Planner.  I have had more than one afternoon where I look at the clock and think 'Eep, four o'clock already?  Guess I should think about dinner...'  Can you guess what we eat on those nights?  Less than balanced meals, usually.  And we usually end up eating late, which pushes back bed time.  Not good.  With a meal planner, I have a visual reminder all day long of the prep that needs to be done and I can plan for it.  Our meals are healthier, usually taste better and the evening goes more smoothly.  Totally worth the time it takes to meal plan.  There are lots of ways to do this and I actually use more than one, but the one I hang on my fridge is very similar to this:
via Amazon
3.  To-Do List.  I made an organizer page a little over a year ago and it's been a life saver.  As mentioned, I am a visual gal.  I need to see it all laid out.  This works for me.  I printed the page, laminated it and I use wet erase markers to fill it out.  I usually divide the blocks up by categories.  For example, "Blog/Etsy, Chores, and Errands", "Today, Tomorrow, and This Week" or something like that.  I can split it up and see exactly what needs to be done and when.  You can download your free high-resolution copy of my organizer HERE.

4.  Wet or Dry Erase Markers.  I love these things.  I use them on all kinds of stuff.  Mr. Napping brought home a bunch of National Guard car magnets a few years ago.  I have been cutting them up and covering them with plain old regular glossy white vinyl and using wet erase markers on them for over a year.  Expo has a bunch of colors too, if you're into color coding (it's okay, embrace the OCD).  I have a grocery list one, a to-do list one and a meal planner one.  The only downside is that my five year old thinks it's hilarious to lick his fingers and wipe my lists off.  To a compulsive list maker... so NOT funny!
via Amazon
5.  Re-Usable Water Bottle or To-Go Mug.  Life as a mommy is hectic and crazy from the moment you roll out of bed in the morning until you climb back in many, many hours later.  If you're going to be shuttling kids to school, practice, games, and all those other places kids need to be, you'll be spending a lot of time in your car.  It can be hard to keep your fluid intake up when you're running all day long.  Something that you can refill, grab and go is essential.  So whether your beverage of choice is water, coffee, tea or something else, get a cute, washable bottle to stay hydrated.  I love my water infuser.  It makes bottle after bottle of water easier to gulp down with a bit of flavor.

Via Amazon
Via Amazon

6.  A good pair of sunglasses... for all that time you'll be spending in the car.  Even in winter, the sun can be a driving annoyance.  I favor the cheap pair of sunglasses, as the sunglass gremlins seem to steal mine all the time.  Whether you prefer Coach or some off-brand, make driving a little more comfortable and safe with a pair of sunglasses.
Via Amazon

7.  A good book.  Whether it's an actual book you can stick in the console or one you have digitally in your phone or tablet, keep one on hand.  In between all that dropping off and picking up you'll be doing, there will be some waiting.  Okay, lots of waiting.  Keep something to do on hand.  Check out Goodread's 2014 book lists or Amazon's Best Books of 2014.  Re-read an old favorite or catch up on your book bucket list.

7.5.  If you have younger kiddos that will be in the car with you during all this running, you may want to have a small basket of car toys.  I keep a small container of books and toys in the back of our Jeep for days I'm running errands with the two littlest boys.  These books and toys STAY in the car.  At all times.  That's the magic of the car toys.  It makes all that waiting time a little more bearable, for both momma and kiddos.  A small or medium clear plastic storage box (with a lid, preferably one that latches!) is plenty.  Check out Dollar Tree for inexpensive toys and books... or just pillage your kids' toys when they aren't looking.  Chances are they won't miss anything you take for the Car Box and it will be a magical surprise when they get to play with it again.

Via Amazon

8. File Organizer.  I have a file organizer that has three slots.  A "home from school" slot, a "back to school" slot and a "needs to be filed" slot.  Over on Simply Kierste, she shared a fantastic idea for storing and filing all those art projects and awesome things that come home from school.  Seriously, check it out.  Anyway, this file organizer is for the papers Big J brings home.  Each day, he is supposed to empty his backpack and put any papers in the "home from school" slot.  I can then go through them and keep what needs to be kept, throw out the trash and take care of any correspondence that needs to go back to school.  Can you guess where those papers go?  In the "back to school" slot.  This is also where I put notes to his teacher, absence letter explanations, notes for the office and the like.  We empty this slot into Big J's backpack each morning before he leaves.  The things I want to keep (art projects, the math test he aced, the spelling test with questionable words on it) go into the "needs to be filed" slot and then it goes into a bin like Kierste shared over on her blog.
Via Amazon
9.  Easy to-go snacks.  Back in January, when I was 8 months pregnant with Baby N, I ended up in the hospital with low blood sugar and dehydration.  I totally freaked Mr Napping out when I fainted on the way to a routine obstetrician appointment.  The cause: I had been so busy all morning long that I'd forgotten to eat.  Now that I'm breastfeeding, I am ALWAYS hungry.  So, I keep easy, grab and go snacks in the cupboard for the times when I'm herding the little boys to the car so we can go get brother from school.  While I'm sitting in the car pick up line, I can pull out my snack and eat share half of it with Little J... and now I bring two snacks.  Applesauce cups, string cheese, trail mix, beef jerky and raisins are just a few things I keep around to grab when we're on the go.  You can find a whole list of awesome snack ideas HERE.

10.  A good pair of shoes.  Comfy and easy to put on.  If you've spent any time chasing after children, you know why.  Ballet flats are my go-to shoe.  They are comfy, stay on my feet, and come in tons of styles.
Via Amazon

11.  A good bag.  All the running around after kiddos is tiring and it requires a surprising amount of stuff to do it successfully.  Anyone who has ever had a busy little boy knows that errand days can be rough when your two-year old is strapped into shopping cart after shopping cart and the baby is in his car seat for a lot of the day.  This bag is to hold all the things needed to make these days run as smoothly as possible.  Snacks, toys, an extra blanket for the spontaneous feeding sesh, water, a couple books maybe, diapers and extra wipes.  Things that may not be necessary, but are super nice to have.  You don't have to take the whole bag into every store.  Choose a couple items at each stop and let the kids explore those.  Trade items before you go into each errand location and you'll be able to keep the kids calmer and distracted for a little longer.
Via Amazon

This post was written by Krista and originally appeared on While He Was Napping.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Five Sight Word Apps to Help Your Kids Learn to Read

Big J starts Kindergarten next week.  We have been working on lots of different skills: handwriting, alphabet recognition, letter sounds, upper and lower case letters and when to use which one, numbers and counting, basic math... you, know all that fun stuff.  He's done pretty well with all of that so far.  He's even done some basic reading.  But, sight words are not his favorite.  They don't follow the rules, and he doesn't like that.  After I'd spent twenty minutes trying to coax him into some practice he told me once, "Mom, I don't like English.  It's hard!"  He's right, it absolutely is!  English is ridiculously hard and it's discouraging when it seems like you aren't getting any better with it.  Mom's "you're doing well" and "keep trying" only go so far.

However, he has always liked his "tablet time".  I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that would hyperventilate with horror at the amount of screen time this kid has under his belt.  But, that's fine.  When my two-and-a-half year old could correctly identify a hexagon, a trapezoid or an octagon, people would give me all kinds of compliments on what a good job I was doing, teaching him such complex shapes at such a young age.  My inner mommy would cackle hysterically... if only these people knew he was learning all these shapes from an app on my tablet and not really me, (half the time, I was just as surprised as they were that he knew them)... while I just smiled and said thanks, chalking it up to him learning quickly and easily.  This boy learns well with his allotted tablet time and I'm not going to refuse to use the resource when it works so well for him.  So, any screen time nay-sayers out there, go ahead with your nay-saying but I'll probably continue to ignore it.  It works here.


So, using my mommy powers, I decided to entice him to do something he doesn't like by combining it with something he does.  And my sight word app search commenced... I tried at least a dozen different sight word apps before I let Big J loose.  I narrowed it to six and let him play with them.  He chose his favorites and now he gets 20 minutes a day of sight word practice.  Best of all, he LIKES it and he's learning!  I don't get frustrated because he won't try, he doesn't get frustrated because it's hard.  He can see that he's making progress and he likes to read the early readers with me now.  He can pick out some of the sight words.

Our favorites, in no particular order:

Sight Words Learning Games.  This is my favorite app.  The lite version of this app has two games for your kiddo to play.  Both are great.  Big J's favorite is the gear game.  This app features the 220 Dolch sight words (plus 90+ nouns) in fve skill levels.  It also has uppercase, lowercase and combined forms of the words.  In the full version, there are six games, including a set of flashcards.  The lite version is available for free and the full version is currently $1.99 in the Play Store. Also in the App Store and in the Amazon App Store.  I will be back to this company.

Phonics Spelling and Sight Words.  This app is good for after your kiddo has been working with sight words.  I wouldn't use it as an introduction for sight words because it's geared a little more toward drills and practicing, rather than playing.  But now that Big J understands and knows some of the words, it's good practice.  It also works on letter blending.  This app has 300 words divided into two levels, Pre-K and K.
Available for free in the Play Store and the Amazon App Store.

(Some of the reviewers were complaining about the ad content in the app.  I personally haven't had any questionable ads pop up while we're playing (I usually have to help Big J with this one a little so I usually see everything that pops up on the screen), but you might want to keep an eye on it.)

Words for Kids - Reading Game.  It's also called Bud's First Words.  This game encourages kids to learn new vocabulary words, as well as begin to recognize sentence structure and recognize sight words.  There are over 350 vocabulary words and is a great app for English as a Second Language Learners.  This app is targeted more toward younger readers (great for preschoolers, kids with learning disabilities or new language learners) and doesn't have an intense focus on the actual sight words, but I like that it shows Big J that sight words show up in everyday life.  There are in-app purchases in the lite version or your can get the full version ($2).  Both versions are available in the Play Store (lite|full) as well as the Amazon App Store (lite|full).  It's also available in the App Store, but I couldn't find a direct link without actually having the app store.  Sorry, Applers.  There are Japanese, Korean, and Spanish versions as well.  I'm going to have both my boys try the Spanish version.

Kids Reading Sight Words.  This is another app by Intellijoy.  I really, really like their apps.  They are engaging and entertaining for my kids, but still have a great educational aspect.  These are the apps my kids will play and not even realize they are learning.  Their sight words app uses the 220 Dolch sight words in five skill levels to identify sight words and common words at their reading level as well as develop reading fluency.  Available in the Play Store (lite|full), in the Amazon App Store (lite|full).  I know there are some Intellijoy apps in the App Store, but I couldn't pin down a direct link for this one.  Sorry, but you'll have to search it yourself.  It's worth it.  Promise.  I'm still trying to talk myself into shelling out the $3 for the full version, but it really is an awesome app.  I just have a hard time paying that much for a game...

Princesses Learn Sight Words.  Not just for girls, my friends.  Although, I'm sure any princess-loving little lady out there would adore this app too.  I wasn't sure if it would be a hit or not with Big J, but he loved the music and the games.  While there are definite improvements that could be made to this app to increase the sight word learning process, it's not a bad way for a kid to spend ten or fifteen minutes.  This app allows kids to recognize sight words in a story-based context, which helps them recognize them in other text they see.  The games aren't super educational (memory, coloring, stickers, bingo and songs) but it is fun and the kids are still being exposed to educational content.  In-app purchases are available.  Get the app in the Play Store, Amazon App Store, and the App Store for free.  There are also versions of Princesses Learn Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and more.  Check out all the Early Languages Apps in the Play Store.

What are your favorite educational apps?

This post was written by Krista and originally appeared on While He Was Napping.

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