Summer Fun Book Buckets!


It was brought to my attention today that the school year has officially ticked along ever so systematically for the last 9 months and we are now simply less than 2 weeks away from Summer Break Beginning! I LOVE SUMMER, I love, love, love summer, I absolutely without a doubt, no questions asked, emphatically love summer break! (Did I get my point across, I LOVE SUMMER!) So I am going to share with you one of my absolute FAVORITE Summer Break Tips that I do with my girls, “Summer Book Buckets”. It’s become somewhat of a tradition and my children look forward to this at the end of every school year now, but first, a little background before I dive into the specifics!

Here’s some background…

Once I became a mother of two and it wasn’t just me and one little sidekick looking for adventure anymore, summer became quite challenging for me. I found myself hoping and wishing for school to begin by July of my first summer as a mother of 2 children. Entertaining my (then) 6-year-old had become difficult with this little (then) 7-month-old addition to our family tagging along and so by the middle of July I was approaching every day of summer with a “just survive” mentality and by the time I was sending my oldest little girl to 1st grade I was thrilled that I had somehow survived the rest of the days of summer and still managed to check all the things off the back to school checklist. That was until Halloween at least, by that point I was feeling dreary & grey (not unlike the Northeast Ohio weather I lived in) and I was regretting wishing the warm golden days of summer away! Now it was about this time that I realized I needed a better approach to summer so we could THRIVE through our next summer break instead of simply SURVIVING it.¬†I made it through that fall and crept by right into winter able to distract myself, at least a little, with the holiday hustle & bustle and before I knew it we were nearing spring.

{Now here’s a side note: I hate rain, it drives me a special kind of batty, really it’s like nails on chalkboard to me if I’m honest, so I don’t love Spring by any means but there are many things about Spring that I do appreciate, mainly that the warmer weather is on the horizon}.

The fact that Spring was in the air had me daydreaming towards summer again. This year I was determined to soak in the days and appreciate the summer instead of wishing it away. We had a vacation planned, we were also planning a few random camping excursions and I had decided to sign my oldest daughter up for a summer swim class. I was not going to let my being home with my 2 girls for most of the summer wear me down again. I would kiss every last night of summer goodbye having fully appreciated the day…..well that was until I found out I was expecting baby #3 around mid-July of that summer and then morning sickness (all day sickness actually) had me once again waking up with the “just survive” mentality. I did just that until fall, sadly looking forward to 2nd-grade beginning and a break from being sole caregiver, teacher & entertainer all day. My pregnancy sickness didn’t fade (in fact I had it almost my entire pregnancy, bummer) and I just couldn’t get through the holiday’s fast enough so I could get to my 3rd baby’s due date in the middle of March 2010. I had begun my stretch as a SAHM just a few weeks before giving birth and welcoming her into our family in the middle of March. After getting settled in at home as a family of 5, I again began anticipating the summer but this time with a completely new level of excitement.

I have been guilty of ¬†letting myself get wrapped up in the difficult seasons in my past and have been known to wish them away. I was guilty of rushing my life a fair amount as a new mom of my oldest for those first few seasons and it’s something that once I recognized it in myself I have consciously tried to prevent moving forward. We are only blessed a certain number of days here on earth, in the company of others and when we coast through life, when we wish for the next season, when we hope for a future we are unsure of, we are taking for granted the time that we do have and the people we are with. I realized after a health scare with my 3rd daughter in the first month after her birth that we must live our time here intentionally, because we never know when our time or the time of a loved one is up…


So here I was at the beginning of summer weather, in the midst of an unusually warm May, just a few weeks away from school being out for Summer Break again except now a mother of 3. My oldest was completing her 2nd-grade year and reading like a miniature little book addict like I was at her age. ¬†She always had a book in her hand and was reading quite well, ahead by at least a grade. She was also turning into quite the little helper with her sisters. It was clear to me that I needed to get ahead of my summer plan so I took to Pinterest. This was just weeks after it launched as a site and it was still pretty ground level. I started searching summer/end of school year ideas and I remember being disappointed that so few ideas came up. I looked through the few results and decided to use them as a jumping off point for what would become my new tradition…………..

Summer Book Buckets:

A¬† GREAT way to get your kids excited about FUN reading to help keep the brain fresh over summer vacation. A good way to encourage an alternate downtime entertainment idea instead of the electronics. A creative way to make books seem less like a mandatory for a school activity and more like a fun playtime activity. When you encourage reading from a young age and also continue through the summer months I have found it creates a healthy relationship with books for most children. I used plastic beach buckets for the first few years that I did this because they are great tools for the beach or splash park and my kiddo’s love sand and water. I didn’t want the book part of the “Summer Fun Book Buckets” to be the only focus so the beach bucket was a fun idea to start. I would also encourage you to try to include a few other non-book items related to your children’s other favorite summer activities. Here are some picture’s I found from 2 different previous years…



About 5 years into this plan I switched to metal buckets. It was the year after my 4th daughter was born and I found them at TJ Maxx just in time for Easter. I was lucky enough to find them in each of my daughters’ favorite colors too. They are multi-purpose through the year as Easter baskets & “stair clutter buckets” and they have a chalkboard plaque on the front. I do not use all new books, I typically only include one brand new book if any at all. My plan is always to include at least 5-7 books in each girls bucket (however I have done as many as a dozen or more before).

When I executed this idea that first summer, my oldest was such a good reader and advanced to the point that I needed to have real quantity for her because the substance still needed to be age appropriate, but 1 age-appropriate book kept her occupied for an afternoon if I was lucky. She would read an American Girl chapter book in just a few hours so I would visit the discount bookstores and thrift stores. The recent addition of “Buy Sell Trade FB pages” has given me a new outlet to obtain books inexpensively in the last few years also. I do watch store sales in anticipation throughout the year now that it has become an annual tradition and I stash them until the end of the school year. I find that by choosing titles they are interested in and curious about they will want to dig right into them! As I mentioned before I mix in some non-book¬†summer related items¬†like a new beach towel¬†sunscreen & sidewalk¬†chalk or bubbles to complete my “Summer Fun Book Buckets”.

As a bonus here are a few of my other go to end of the school year ideas that I do with my kids


Hang poster paper on the door and make a list with your kiddos of things to do over the summer before you go in!


Crepe Paper the door so when they get home from school they can burst through!


Ice Cream is always a great way to kick off Summer Break too!!!

I hope this inspire’s you to try one of these ideas to get your kids off to an exciting new start to the 12 weeks of summer! Check¬†back in the upcoming weeks to see some of the ways I plan to keep my kids on top of chores over the summer, limit their electronic use, and instill some character building Virtue Lessons! Plus I will try to update on all of our fun adventure’s, celebrations and new ways to sneak Family Time into our busy summer schedules! I hope you have an AWESOME¬†Summer Break!!!

As always, thanks for reading!


Terms and Conditions     Privacy Policy     Copyright
The Dazzling Domestic Dreamer
Copyright © 2013-2018

My Top 10 Valentine Alternatives for Kids


the lord will fight_Page_11

So Valentine’s Day is coming and that means if you have children who leave your house for school, you likely have already started hearing the endless pleas for the cheesy, pricey character valentines or some sort of candy alternative from your kiddo’s. Now I have been known to take the easy way out and pay way too much for inevitably more Valentines than I need (because one box is never enough so you end up being stuck getting a second box for 3 more right? Anyone else’s luck or is it just me?). I don’t like this option though because it’s either wasteful & generic and gets thrown out immediately or it is something made of, coated with or dipped in some sort of sugar as if we need more excuses to give our kids more sugar!

For the most part I try very hard to steer clear of those, but I must rat myself out, between expecting my newest daughter and now I have taken the easy way out each year………so this year I decided to get back to thinking out of the box and attempting some of my favorite ideas that I have Pinned over the years. I put together this list of…


My Top 10 Valentine Alternatives for Kids

So let’s start this list off with 5 healthy & delicious edible non candy alternatives

1.) You’re a “Cutie”

Great healthy option for a Valentine's Day treat! Free printable "you're a cutie" Valentines are an easy candy free alternative kids will love.

Supplies Needed: easy peel oranges, plastic treat bags, twine or ribbon, a hole punch & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the tags

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print tags by the dozen.

This is a relatively affordable alternative that will still hit the sweet tooth! It works well for any age and is an easy one for the kids to help assemble not to mention if you have to buy another package of “Cuties” for just 3 more the rest can still be enjoyed instead of shoved in a drawer & forgotten about like the rest of our leftover paper Valentines!

Great healthy option for a Valentine's Day treat! Free printable "you're a cutie" Valentines are an easy candy free alternative kids will love.

Check this link out for other cute ideas and different colored tag options for the tags above and access to the free template for download! Free Cutie Printable Here!

2.) Goldfish Treats

Supplies Needed: Goldfish snack crackers, plastic treat bags, twine, ribbon or twist tie, hole punch or stapler & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the card.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print cards 4 at a time.

This is a relatively affordable alternative that will stand out amidst the sweet choices! It works well for any age, who doesn’t LOVE these things? It is also an easy one for the kids to help assemble not to mention if you have leftovers they are great everyday snacks!

cute toddler valentine ideas - Google Search:

For a cute color graphics template hop over¬†HERE¬†where a talented mommy blogger created a super adorable design, one that can print 4 at a time! This idea allows you to purchase a large box of goldfish for a bulk price instead of prepackaged options if you need to stretch a buck. I just had a 30 oz. box delivered today with my Amazon Prime Pantry box for $7.69 and I didn’t even have to walk into a store!

Here’s another cute option too, with the Link¬†to the original source for access to this printable too in case you prefer prepackaged (or as the case may be required by some schools because of food allergy concerns).goldfish valentine for kids

On the off chance that you don’t like either of these beautifully cheesy puns, one simple search on fish-related treat rhymes will turn up too many to choose!

3.) ¬†You are my “Main Squeeze”


“Awesomesauce” pouch covers/tags

Supplies Needed: Your favorite Applesauce pouches, twine or ribbon, hole punch & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the card.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print cards 6 at a time.

This is a relatively affordable option also and great for all ages, toddlers clear thru grade school age. It is another healthy option that will stand out amidst the sweet choices! It works well for any age and can be purchased in many flavors…

“You’re my main squeeze”¬†is a great gender-neutral printable¬†Main Squeeze tag available for printing by clicking on the link.preschool valentines

Here is an adorable Awesomesauce Printable available for free download Here

and made available here by another blogging mama.

4.) “Let’s Stick Together” String Cheese

Supplies Needed: String cheese sticks, scissors, cardstock for the card, markers & holiday stickers or embellishments.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  makes 6 per standard cardstock sheet.

This is another healthy option that will stand out amidst the sweet choices!¬†String cheese is an outside of the box Valentine idea too and¬†providing your little one doesn’t have a dairy ban due to allergy in their classroom it should be permissible and can double as a healthy no mess morning snack. Again this is another relatively affordable option also and great for all ages, toddlers clear thru grade school age.

How do you make these? Start with basic card stock of your liking. You will need to cut the card stock about 2 inches longer than the cheese stick and about 3 times its width. You should be able to get 6 out of a standard  8 1/2  x 11. Cut two holes, one on either end of the cardstock rectangles, about as big as a quarter and decorate with your choice embellishments. Stick string cheese through &  use a marker to sign your message!

5.) Pirate’s Booty

Supplies Needed: Individual Pirate Booty Bags, scissors or paper cutter, cardstock and printer with ink and stapler.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  makes 2 per standard cardstock sheet.

This is another healthy snack, yes but it is not necessarily as affordable, HOWEVER, my 3rd girl LOVES Pirate Booty so when I found this template I just had to include it in my favorites!!!

Click Here to print the template for 2 of these Pirate Booty Bag Toppers.

Don’t see an edible option you like? Try this link instead!

Phew!!! Ok So now let’s move on to finish off this top 10 list.

Next is¬†5 of my favorite Usable¬† non candy Valentine alternatives…

6.) Make creative magic while disguising a pencil

Supplies Needed:¬†Pencils from your favorite dollar store, no stick scissors or paper cutter, and either card stock google eyes & colorful pom poms (caterpillars) ¬†OR Duct Tape & glittery sticker paper (Cupid’s Arrows).

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many pencils you purchase to use.

Whether you are looking for ideas for preschool age or something more appealing to the tween or teens in your life, pencils can be the framework for a totally adorable & functional Valentine.

top image       Heart Arrow Pencils for Valentine's Day

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Caterpillar template¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Cupid’s Arrow Pencils

Everyone could use an extra pencil to wear out after just returning from Winter Break as they work the rest of the school year away.

7.) “Don’t Burst my Bubble” or “Blowing Kisses Your Way” Valentines

Supplies Needed: Mini party bubbles (available for order online or in most party stores typically under $5 for a 24 ct. box), cardstock, twine or ribbon.

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many bubbles you purchase to use.

Whether you are looking for ideas for preschool age or something more appealing to the tween or teens in your life, bubbles are not a common choice but they certainly are a FUN Valentine idea!

Blowing Kisses Your Way Instructions¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Don’t Burst My Bubble Template

Bubble-valentine-Crafts-Unleashed-10                  Bubbles-Valentine-PrintableBubble-valentine-Crafts-Unleashed-1OL150

Free Blowing Kisses Printable Template

8.) Crayon Creations!

Supplies Needed: Broken crayons, card stock, twine or glue or a removable adhesive runner.

In theory, you could break new crayons but that seems so sad to me lol, I love a new Crayola!¬†(I hoard our broken crayons, which ends up being most crayons that enter this house, I’m OCD about the crayons my kids have readily available looking newer and being full. Once they snap one time I can’t stand it being in their normal supply)

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many crayons you have to use and desire to bake & cool.

We made these about 6 years ago before I was a blogger so I have none of my own resources to share because I didn’t document like a blogger then. I have scoured the interwebs though, tirelessly looking for the perfect resources to share for this one because WE HAD A BLAST making these, they were virtually free and they received rave reviews from all the friends & peers that received them so¬†Here¬†and¬†HERE¬†are two whose methods I and templates are personal favorites!

Great valentine idea. Cute alternative to candy for the kiddos! | best stuff:           Valentine heart crayons       free printable crayon Valentine card   

“Color Your Heart Out” Free Template¬†¬†Use this for a Valentine their friends can color!

“You make my world so very Colorful” Free Template

How To:         You enlist the capable kiddos to help you peel the crayon pieces that still have paper while snapping them smaller. If an adult wants to they can use a knife to break them up smaller carefully. You can sort them by color family or just go random rainbow but fill muffin molds shaped in a heart. Preheat the oven to 230* and bake them for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, Let cool and they should pop out of the molds easily.

**Disclaimer, I would encourage keeping a separate set of silicone molds for this project. I had to scrub and scrub to get the film off so that I could use the molds again. Bonus to crayons being non-toxic so if I missed any, it wasn’t harmful LOL**

Now if this all seems like too much work but you love the crayon idea, you can still use either template & attach 4 crayons with washi tape.

9.) Paper Craft & Fun!

Supplies Needed: A heavy printing paper, scissors, optional small stickers or rub on tattoos to put inside the fortune cookies.

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many you print to use. Fortune cookies print in pairs.

With a teenager and a full-on tween these immediately appealed to my eye. The beauty with the Fortune Cookie idea is that you can print one set as a template and use ANY paper color or print you like and just cut circles of the same size and then proceed using the instructions in the link below.

The cootie catchers are another teen & tween appeal alternative. I’ve included a few options I have come across however much like the fortune cookies, the template can be printed and used as a pattern to create cootie catchers using any paper color or print also so hit the scrapbook aisle and see what your kiddos can come up with!

Free Printable Fortune Cookie|

Free Printable Valentine Cootie Catcher

Visit this very talented fellow mom & blogger here to get the templates and detailed step by step on these cute Fortune Cookie Valentines

Visit this talented fellow blogger and mom here to  get the instructions for the Cootie Catchers and to check out her other ideas!

10.)Valentines Goo!

Supplies Needed: 6 oz bottle Elmer‚Äôs Classic Glitter Glue,¬†¬ľ cup water,¬†¬ĺ cup warm water,¬†1 teaspoon Borax,¬†(6) 2 oz disposable containers

Quantity: Each 6 oz. bottle of glue will get you 6 two-ounce containers.

This looks like a fun project and my 2nd girl is a budding scientist so I see this in our future, if not this year definitely soon thereafter! I have not attempted this project yet so again I can offer no personal testament to the ease of recreation, however, it looks legit and super fun & easy and definitely an outside of the boxed Valentine! Be sure to head over to the creator of this Gooed Valentine recipe!!!


Ok, so there you have it! I slaved for hours compiling this list (he he, slaaaaved) and checking and double checking ideas looking for easy to accomplish ideas that most of which can be done quite affordable. Now if you still didn’t find an alternative that made you look twice then swing thru this blog post where there are over 30 more no candy alternatives!!!¬†Plus with a full weekend ahead of you hopefully can sneak in an hour or so to craft these with the kids………Life is about making Memories after all!


BONUS! For those of you that took the time to look through this list thoroughly and maybe even tackled one of these ideas for your child’s class, I am giving you a cute and easy Teacher Valentine!!!


Rolo Pencil Treat for Teachers, these are adorable and easy to do so follow the link for step by step instructions and most of all…



Now have a wonderful weekend!


Terms and Conditions     Privacy Policy     Copyright
The Dazzling Domestic Dreamer
Copyright © 2013-2018