Back to School Week

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180 days after COVID-19 upended everything, Travis walked back into a school building this week. Ahead of the first day, we brainstormed a list of goals for the first week. Then we added in a few fun activities (and eats!) each day to make the week feel truly special.


  • To make a new friend
  • To make a fresh start/improvement
  • To start a new activity
  • To learn something new

Meanwhile, each day we tried to include something fun to eat, something to do, and something to make. Our week started on Tuesday, so here is how the four days went down.

Day 1

To eat: An A is for Apple Smoothie!

To do: Have a treasure hunt! I scattered school supplies (new pencils, new highlighters) as well as candy (Twizzlers) around the apartment, and Travis got to find them the moment he woke up. It made it feel almost like Christmas!

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To make: A self-portrait! Travis drew a very small version of himself, which wasn’t exactly what I was imagining. But oh well, the idea is to see where your child is at with regards to art, here in September. It will be interesting to repeat this activity on the last day of school!

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Day 2

To eat: Double-Pumpkin Muffins!

To do: Receive a schultute. I put together a simplified version of this German tradition by wrapping a piece of sturdy decorative paper into a cone. Tape shut and then trim the edge so the top rim is an even circle. Stuff with tissue paper, and then with school treats.

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We included supplies he’ll need (crayons, pencils), COVID-era extras (his favorite mask, hand sanitizers), and treats – Twizzlers that is!

To make: Decorate a chalkboard with school-themed stickers. Write in your child’s new grade, and pose for pictures of course!

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Day 3

To eat: A special snack! Decorate your child’s snack bag with stickers from a favorite show or movie. Don’t forget to add a little note of encouragement.

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To do: Make it Backwards Day! Whether you extend this theme all day long (like wearing clothing backwards or doing a silly activity backwards) or just add a few backwards points here and there, it’s a great way to keep kids positive and playful mid-way through the week. To wit, Travis was about to turn grumpy about school until I told him we were having dinner for breakfast and vice versa. He started the day with a favorite meal: hot dogs!

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To make: A vision board! Flip through magazines and have your child cut out pictures that provide inspiration or goals for the year ahead. We were a touch limited with only a few doll catalogs on hand, but actually this worked out well. Travis selected images to go with: making new friends, having his own locker, playing sports, and taking care for our cat. Your child could also draw their goals if you don’t want to be limited by magazines.

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Day 4

To eat: Fruit Faces! This can be as simple as banana slice eyes and an apple wedge smile on a piece of toast, but it’s sure to make kids wake with a smile even after a groggy start.

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To do: Make it Spirit Day! Even if no one else in school is doing so, get rah rah and show school spirit by dressing in school colors.

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To make: Start a video! Capture these moments of first-week-back excitement with little video clips. You can then take several mini clips and edit them together into one longer video, if you have access to the right app or software.


At the end of the week, I checked in with him on his goals.

Regarding a new friend, he’s already bonded further with a girl he only knew from the cafeteria last year, who is now a classmate.

For a fresh start, he’s improved on his Zoom behavior markedly!

For a new activity, he’s all signed up to join our local Cub Scouts.

For learning something new, the class has already learned a new math game.

Happy Back to School!


Marshmallow Treats

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Okay, so this treat isn’t healthy and it’s only redeemable value is that your toddler will have an absolute blast with it. But sometimes that’s what snacktime calls for on a cloudy day!

I sprinkled the powder from raspberry-flavored vegan jel dessert (try Simply Delish) into a zip-top bag, and folded the edge down slightly so  Veronika could reach inside more easily.

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Then I handed her big marshmallows!

These were a novelty, since she’s only eaten the minis before. I showed her how to dip a marshmallow into the powder and then take a taste. On the first dip, your child won’t be terribly rewarded. But once the marshmallow is sticky, each dip means more dessert powder in the next bite.

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Tubes and Balls

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I had a few mailing tubes from the post office that I ended up not needing, which prompted this fun morning of play!

To start, I angled the smaller mailing tube into a basket and also added a shorter paper towel tube for variety in height. Veronika immediately loved dropping in ping pong balls, which were the perfect size to roll through the tubes.

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She loved that she could hear the balls rolling down the mailing tube! She also loved parroting me, saying, “Where did it go?”. Then she would answer her own question by lifting the tube to find the balls in the bottom of the basket.

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Being a toddler, she didn’t always stick to the “rules” of course and lifted the tubes out of the basket. She loved just dropping the balls into the tubes right in mid-air!

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I also had a larger mailing tube but we needed to set this one up differently since she couldn’t reach the top of it standing. I angled it off the couch into the basket, and this time we rolled larger tennis balls through it.

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It was like a new discovery for her each time she popped a tennis ball in at the top and watched it appear at the bottom.

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Want to take your tube-rolling fun to a higher level? Try this game off the stairs instead!

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Book Box

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Although I’m not on the hook to home school this fall (phew!), I do have to somehow occupy a toddler for 2 hours of remote Zoom learning each afternoon. To help out any parents in the same boat, I’ll be posting a few ideas each week that keep Veronika busy while big brother does his school work!

First up was today’s Book Box.

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I filled a small basket with titles that are interactive, meaning that Veronika can easily go through them by herself. Although your exact titles might be different than the ones I used, here are some categories to think of.

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Lift-the-flap books: We have some that are short and simple (Where is Baby’s Belly Button) and some that encompass whole towns. To wit, Playtown is great because we’ve read it together enough that she knows what to expect behind each flap, and can now go through the book solo.

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Sound books. Books that make noises are always fun. Look for ones that are easy for kids to manipulate on their own.

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I like the buttons on Usborne’s Poppy and Sam’s Animal Sounds, as well as Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket; the latter features a chirp as soon as she arrives at the last page, a delight each time!

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Texture books. Toddlers are a bit advanced for baby favorites like Pat the Bunny. Look instead for books with cut-outs or layers. We love The Rainbow Book by Kate Ohrt, which has layers of cut-outs and colors for little fingers to dig down into.

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Books with props: First up in her bin was All Better, which has band-aids that your toddler can affix to owie’s on adorably illustrated animals. Trust me, this one never gets old.

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For something decidedly yuckier but that will make kids giggle, try Fingers for Lunch, with holes to wiggle your fingers through before a monster chomps them off.

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Finally, consider books that use flashlights, like any in Usborne’s Shine-a-Light series. When Veronika spotted the flashlight in her bin, she used it on all the books, not just the Shine-a-Light!

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If that’s not enough to keep your toddler happy, plop him or her right in a box to read instead!

What would you put in your toddler’s Book Box? Please share in the comments!

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Mixed Fruit Yogurt Smoothie

Mixed Fruit Yogurt Smoothie

An unexpected mix of fruits means that kids will drink up nearly their full rainbow of vitamins in one glass!


  • 1 cup chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup frozen chopped pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 cup apple juice
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.