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Favorite Backpacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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It’s that back-to-school time of year and there are SO many cute backpacks out there — but so many are HUGE and nearly impossible for the littlest of students to carry.

Today I’m sharing my favorites for the “pint size” packs — so many of these come in additional colors and prints, and BONUS, they’re all available on Amazon! 😉

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The Book List at Three (and a HALF!)

If you’ve spent a minute on this blog, you know we are total suckers for children’s books around here. I always manage to find room in the budget for the bookstore, we go to the library on the regular for even more, and I’m always on the hunt for new recommendations from others as well. I blogged our most recent list here for age 3 here (and our 12-24 month list here) and only six months later, the interests continue to evolve and we discover even more awesome titles. Nothing is set in stone yet…but I think we might have a Halloween costume this year based on a favorite book. 🙂 Below is a rundown of a few of the current favorites:

Square and Triangle (of the Shape trilogy) — I love the monochromatic illustrations in these books and the simple stories between the character shapes, that are laced with a little humor. After Triangle was a hit, I quickly reserved a copy of Square when it was released…and Circle is due out next spring.

I’m a big fan of Jon Klassen’s books, and similar to the shape series, there is some comedy woven into I Want My Hat Back, a simple tale of a a bear who’s lost his hat.

I wasn’t sure how Be Kind would go over (would there be enough “action” to the story to keep him interested?), but Crew was captivated by all the practices of kindness, and has been asking ever since on the daily, “that was kind, right Mom?”

I had added Stuck to our Amazon wish list, and happened upon it at the library shortly after. Let’s just say after out-loud giggles, this one will likely become a permanent fixture in our house. A funny story of a boy who gets his balloon stuck in a tree and throws item after item into the tree to knock it down, and by the end is throwing larger than life objects.

Another Oliver Jeffers book, we love the illustrations in Here We Are, a quick run-down of what it is to live here on Earth. The page with alllll the things living in the sea is particularly captivating and always generates a lot of questions. 🙂

We received Shh! We Have A Plan as a board book when Crew was born, and I loved the illustrations (do you sense a theme here?) from the get-go. But recently, it has received all new life now that Crew really likes the STORY behind the pictures. (Crew lives out this story in our yard now with the birds — hilarious!) (We’ve loved every title by this author, and I think we need to own Little Owl Lost, next!)

The Book with No Pictures is in heavy rotation lately. Funny and silly, I love that it encourages more listening to the words and less relying on images to follow along. Be prepared to sound ridiculous when reading this one. 😉

All of the above can be found on Amazon but I currently have a big Usborne order en route as I type this — we’ve never been disappointed by any of our reads from there and I’m anxious to check out the newest releases and share favorites from there, soon!

What are your kiddos’ current favorite reads??

Favorite Things: Age 3

Whenever I’m shopping for kids of other ages or genders, I’m always hunting for a gift guide to get me thinking. Even as Crew gets older, I’m checking out gift guides for the age group just above his, to help keep the ideas fresh. Crew has been LOVING the same few items lately, so I thought it made sense to do a round-up as we approach the half mark (what?!) of age three:

  • This set of upper and lower case letter puzzles has gotten SO. MUCH. USE. It’s without a doubt the number one thing Crew has been playing with as of late. He gets such a thrill out of being quizzed (and quizzing us) and matching up the “big and littles” of each letter. He also has made a game out of one of us racing him to see who can put the letters in their puzzle, first. The listing we bought is now unavailable, but the dimensions, price point, even the font style on this set are identical.
  • All the grabbers. Claws. Robot arms. Whatever you want to call them, I can’t really articulate what it is about these, but each one is more exciting than the next. Crew loves the coordination exercise of trying to pick up toys with them (bonus motivation to clean up!) and the ones that have animal heads like this dinosaur that can “chomp” are extra cool.
  • The Cook In A Book series is one I’ve blogged before (we have all three titles!), but they continue to be SUCH a hit.
  • I bought a couple of these Tiny Tonkas for a trip last year as something small to carry-on and knew the garage door “things inside other things” would be a big hit. Turns out we’ve been collecting them every since. They’ve become a (well played with!) collection and the garages all hook together to form a super garage for all the vehicles — which coincidentally are also the perfect size for running through the many garbage trucks he plays with.
  • Memory is a favorite game. It began with a set he picked out in the dollar section, and then after so. many. rounds. I’ve added a couple different sets to our stash, just to switch it up. Most recently, we acquired this magnetic set for some upcoming travels, but it’s also come in handy at restaurants.
  • Boys just need to MOVE. This scooter came from the Easter Bunny and it’s been a great energy burner and challenge in balancing, coordination, and learning how to brake. It’s a great “first” scooter because of the sturdy two-front-wheels design. He can focus on just figuring it out without fear of falling over.
  • Anything that shoots darts, squirts water (great for the bath!), or launches little foam rockets — all a gold star in this guy’s book. Between the thrill of cause and effect, and mastering aim at a target (often, our ceiling fans!) these have all been favorites. (Tip: If you go the stomp rocket route, go with the “Jr.” model for this age group, so they can actually have enough force to make it work!)
  • Not a “toy” but might as well be — this pancake pen was part of his Valentine loot, and it combines a couple of loves — making letters/spelling his name, and making pancakes. (PS — I love to gift the pancake pen with the above-mentioned Pancakes book, together!)

Anything to add? I’m always on the hunt for a new favorite!

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5 Little Things I’m Doing to Improve My (and My Family’s) Health

Between the start of the year (resolution/goals mindset) and the coming of Spring (well, someday! we are due more SNOW this week!), I’ve been more health/goal minded and craving some changes and healthier habits in my (and my family’s) day-to-day routines. I’ve found I have more success implementing smaller changes, a couple at a time, than trying to overhaul, getting overwhelmed (or distracted) and undoing any good I’ve done, altogether.

I’m no expert, and I don’t sell or represent any brands mentioned, but I’m feeling really good about these five little things I’m making the rule instead of the exception in my everyday:

1. packing my lunches
I’ve been trying to be more intentional about including more fruits and veggies and proteins, and not buying my lunches out (which adds up quickly) on workdays. It truly is easier to dedicate a half hour or so on Sunday nights to portion out some lunches for the next three days. I find it easiest to just eat the same thing, times three, and change it up from week to week rather than daily. I quickly realized I was burning through ziploc bags, so I ordered myself one of the Lunchbots tins (mine is the “trio large”) and I LOVE how easy it is to pack, rinse, and re-use from one day to the next. (Also — if you follow the Lunchbots instagram account, it’s full of fresh snack/meal ideas for packing adult and kid lunches, alike!)

2. switching to natural deodorant
Over Christmas, a friend mentioned loving this brand of natural deodorant and I made a mental note. Then, after another friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, she mentioned making the switch to a natural deodorant, and I was inspired to do the same. Ursa Major happened to be the first brand I tried and I’ve been VERY pleased. I haven’t had much in the way of “detox symptoms” that some people talk about, but I think it’s also probably easier to make the switch now before the heat season comes. I also just think this particular brand is THAT good and worth the money. I’m kind of  obsessed with it and love the smell and tingly sensation. It feels so fresh and I love knowing everything in it is SAFE. (Also — if your skin is sensitive to baking soda — common in natural deodorants — they also make a “no B.S.” version here.)

3. throwing out our vegetable oil (and peanut oil and canola oil)
A friend of mine is a nutritionist and I’ve been stalking – er, following – all her delicious recipes and posts here. When she mentioned getting vegetable oils out of your life, I was intrigued and googled a bit further. This article is a great read on why to make the switch, if you need further convincing! And this change was SO easy to do. I simply tossed what we had, bought an olive oil spray in place of Pam for nonstick uses, and the mega jar of Coconut Oil home from Costco for anything else that would normally call for oil. I find myself checking labels a bit more for instances of these oils, but I’m not overly crazy about it. Again, it’s about small steps and implementing changes at reasonable rates.

4. experimenting with natural household products 
I’ve admittedly found it a bit “hippie” in the past, but after so many new options on the market and constant new research to support them, I’ve taken a new interest in the products I bring into my home. I recently played around on the Think Dirty app to score some items we’re already using. Some passed with flying colors…and others failed miserably. So I feel like I have a good list of places to start using up and replacing sooner than later. I’ve always been rather intentional about choosing natural products when it comes to Crew, but even in that arena, as we’ve moved away from the “baby phase” it gets easier to slip up. I’ve recently purchased this body wash for his bathtime and love it (we did the lavender scent, but they’re all delicious). We also switched to Trader Joes all natural laundry detergent (loooove the smell). Easy swaps, little changes.

I’ve also been playing more and more with essential oils (I’m not loyal to any one brand, but do your research to make sure you are buying 100% pure, therapeutic grade and no filler stuff). I ditched dryer sheets long ago and now add a few oil drops to my wool dryer balls and incorporating them into rollerballs (I’m using these) and a couple DIY cleaners, linen sprays, and more (in these bottles). I’m still learning and experimenting, but I’m particularly interested in using them for allergy relief as that season approaches.

5. drinking apple cider vinegar 
This is not a new one for me, but I fall out of the habit and am being intentional about reincorporating it. I’ve been trying to cut back on alcohol, so instead of taking a glass of wine to my nightly Netflix wind-down, I pour a big glass of ice water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. A run-down of the many benefits of incorporating this (easy peasy) habit into water you are already drinking can be found here.

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5 Boy Outfits for Spring

I’m on a mission to share some quarterly boy outfit inspo, starting with SPRING!

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Shirt by CrewCuts // Boots by Hunter // Shorts by Target // Knee Socks by Etsy

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Sweatshirt and Trunks by Janie & Jack // Sunnies by Gap // Shoes by Old Navy

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Cardigan by The Little Spoons // Tee by CrewCuts // Shorts by Target // Shoes by Gap

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Shirt by Children’s Place // Shorts by Rockets of Awesome // Shoes by Nike

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Jammies & Kiddo Blanket by June & January

Can’t wait to do this again soon for summer 🙂

Favorite Places to Shop and Top 3 Tips for Dressing Boys

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

cardigan Beau Hudson // tee Jean & June // jeans Hudson // boots Hunter

 

There’s no question if you’re into kid fashion, it’s easier to hunt down original stuff for the girls than for the boys. So far, we’ve managed to stay away from character clothing (yes, I’m THAT non-fun mom), and I’ve never been one to do the cliche “little slugger” type stuff. And…I can only do so much Under Armour. Beyond those categories, it can SEEM like there’s not much to choose from for the boys. But boy mama fashionistas, you know better!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com  

shirt Janie & Jack // suspenders Little Mister // olive chinos Oshkosh

 

Embrace the hunt, because it IS a hunt — and look in unexpected places…and LIVE UP the fact that most little boys (unlike girls, accordingly to my friends who have them) don’t CARE what you put them in — so pick what you like! As a boy mom who loves fashion, (and married a guy who happens to love it as well), I truly believe that dressing boys really IS just as much fun, if you’re willing to look a little harder. I a believer that a sense of style is NOT something reserved only for the female half of the population and I take personal pride in the fact that Crew (as much as a three year old can), LIKES clothing and notices what people wear!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Gymboree // linen blazer Janie & Jack // carrot pin Etsy

 

I get asked a lot where I shop for Crew, and thought it made sense to compile my list all at once and share it out. (You’ll see I don’t stick to one style — we go from classic and preppy to whimsical and wordy!) While I certainly do pick up something from Target and Carters from time to time, I don’t often have much luck, and while I definitely buy Gap and Old Navy items (they consistently nail cuteness!), I only do so much there, too, because EVERYONE is wearing the same thing (again, so few resources — means boy moms are all going to the same spots!).

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Gap // shorts Gymboree // sandals Target

 

Ultimately, I do most of my shopping online to get outside the bubble of what Des Moines has to offer. Below is a list of the stores/brands I have purchased from and would recommend to my best girlfriends, because of the high quality, sense of style, expansive selection, or some combination of the three. (Note that several of these are Etsy shops or small independent brands — I love to support small businesses in this arena!)

 

My top 3 tips when it comes to shopping for boys:

1. Shop the sale racks. Most people buy kids clothes based on growth spurts and needs for the current season. I like to shop the sales for the following year(s) and not just to save money, and to be able to fit more pieces of higher-quality kidswear into my budget, but doing so also reduces the chance that you’ll see the same item everywhere if he’s not wearing it the season it was released. (Nothing worse than paying good money for a cute item only to see it everywhere and it becomes less special!) Additional tip: when shopping at a retailer with both store locations AND online space, look for the items that are “online exclusives” — you’ll be less likely to see these around, because they aren’t in the stores.

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Ralph Lauren // shorts Gymboree // pink Converse Von Maur

2. Shop the girls’ section. Yep, you read that right. If the (already much larger!) girl department gets to offer dinosaur jammies and other “traditionally boy” things for little ladies, then I say the boy department gets to borrow right back. One of my favorite looks ever on Crew was the spring/Easter season this year when he rocked some pink Converse tennis shoes. Paired with a linen blazer, or a Polo button-down and some chino shorts, or any other decidedly “boy” pieces, the pink shoes made a fun statement (and he loved them!). Another favorite girl department item I’ve bought three years in a row? H&M black fleece-lined leggings (they technically show up in both departments) — the skinny look works on boys when paired with a cool sweatshirt and tennis shoes, and they’re comfy for napping, stay up on skinny waists, and are warm for Iowa winters!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

coat Old Navy // sweater Childrens Place // bow tie Etsy // shorts Beaufort Bonnet // saddle shoes Amazon

3. Shop small/local. Because they have to set themselves apart, local/small online shops get some of the BEST stuff that blows the big box-store styles out of the water. Their entire business is childrenswear, so they do it WELL. Yes, the price point is typically higher, but so is the QUALITY and the ORIGINALITY – two things that rank high in my book. Plus, you’re supporting small businesses who often make their purchasing/creation decisions based on their first-hand experience with their own kiddos — the same ones you’re supporting by choosing to spend your dollars there.

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

navy and gray layered tees Old Navy // yellow chinos Old Navy

Above are some of my favorite outfits from the past year or so, from all seasons (if items are still available, I’ve linked them below each photo). I’m excited to start pulling together quarterly posts with seasonal outfit ideas for boys, if you’re looking for some “look book” inspiration! Stay tuned later this week — I’m starting with looks for SPRING!

Easter for the Boys

1. Dinosaur egg bath bombs

Crew got some bath bombs in his stocking for Christmas and is so into them. He’s also big on dinosaurs so these were perfect (and I get to put some “eggs” in his basket). I’ve also found these at Wal-Mart next to the kiddo bubble bath.

2. Rifle Paper Co. Tie + Pocket square

I’m a sucker for the Rifle Paper Co. florals, and now that they make fabrics, I’m in heaven. I was pretty sure Page would love this tie for himself, and after checking with him to be sure, he was all over the pocket square, too. Crew thinks anything Dad does is the coolest, so this was a fun way to make the most of that in their Easter get-ups.

3. Too Many Carrots

Crew was gifted A Long Winter’s Nap for his birthday, and while Crew loved the story, I fell in love with the artwork, and had to know what else the author had written. This title was too perfect for this holiday.

4. Bunnies on Bicycles jammies

You know I love some Hanna jams. I loved this pattern in that it wasn’t overly Easter — but more Springtime and reminds us of getting outside again soon! These will certainly last us all summer into the hotter months when long jammies are just too warm at night.

5. Chalk Bombs

With the excitement of getting outside more, I think Crew will like this fun spin on traditional sidewalk chalk. I originally thought you could only use them once and then done, but when I figured out you can throw them again and again to make “explosions” of chalk art, I was sold.

6. Bunny slingshot

I thought this was so clever, and while I can’t link to it, you can find it in your Target dollar spot ($3). I also like that the “ammo” (aka bunny tail) won’t do too much damage around my house!

7. Pink knee highs

When it comes to dressing boys, I hate to feel limited and like to think outside the box. I’m also a huge believer in boys wearing pink, and that either gender can shop outside his/her department! Last year I put Crew in some pink Converse with his Easter ensemble, and the shoes were a hit with him all season long after that. This year, I started with the socks of all things, after coming across June & January’s unisex socks — finally something in a fun color that doesn’t have a frilly edge or girlie pattern to it. These will let us get one more wear out of the saddle shoes he wore with his Christmas outfit, too!

The “Crew”Neck — Personalized Patch Kid Sweatshirt

You don’t have to look far to see the patch trend is everywhere — and particularly big in kid’s clothing. One piece of  this trend goes a long way for me, but I thought it would be such a fun way to capture everything that makes Crew, CREW right now, at age 3.

He LOVES to spot the letter C everywhere, and 3 is his current favorite number, so those were easy places to start. But it was when I was able to find a garbage truck patch on Etsy,  that I knew this project was a must-do.

 

 

I pinned a few example pieces to get a feel for arrangement and relative sizes of patches. I ended up ordering this  sweatshirt, as Crew isn’t super big on zip-ups right now (he thinks anything with a zipper is for going outside only, he has yet to understand the heavenly-ness of a hoodie!) and I didn’t want this piece to be limited to outerwear.

The C patch and the 3 patch came from Amazon, everything else was from a variety of sellers on Etsy, although Ebay is a great resource as well if you’re looking for something super-specific. For a 4T sweatshirt, I’d keep the patches smaller, around 1-1/2″ average size. I actually started with a much bigger slice of pizza (admittedly, I wasn’t paying close attention to  the size description) and ended up swapping for something smaller.

When you’re shopping for your patches, I’d recommend varying the sizes and colors and shapes of the patches — I opted to start with a focal point (I knew I wanted the letter jacket “C” to be prominent) — and then built everything else around that. It SEEMS random to throw them all on there, but it took me a few minutes of arranging to get everything to “work” on here and keep it balanced.

Yes, this was a project for my enjoyment, but I’m happy my model is thrilled with it, too.