My Kindergarten Essentials Checklist

A couple of weeks ago, we received a letter from my son’s school with a list of “School Supplies” for his entrance into Kindergarten this September. The list only includes a pair of velcro shoes, a paint shirt, an extra set of clothes and a backpack on it. Our school supplies for class are purchased by the teachers out of a shared fund. While the basics are great, I put together my own list of essentials for Kindergarten.

Kindergarten essentials

10 Essentials for Kindergarten

  1. Backpack – there are many cute backpacks out there, but size and fit are a huge factor for me. I wanted a backpack that would be appropriate for a 5-year old’s body and had good strap padding with a chest clip for back and neck health. After a lot of research, I purchased one from Pottery Barn Kids.
  2. Lunchbox – you can purchase a traditional lunchbox and fill it with a myriad of containers and bags, or you could purchase a Planetbox (review here) and be done in one step. I looked into a variety of bento-type systems, and am very happy with our choice. You can purchase a sleeve or carry bag as well, so you can insert an ice pack. If you’re willing to back a Kickstarter bid (US only), the OmieBox looks like another great option to offer hot / cold options all from one box. TIP: your child should know how to open and close all containers.
  3. Water bottle – I’ve lately found our water bottles too small for my 4-year-old, so I purchased a larger volume bottle. I have never had leaks with the Thermos brand, so I purchased their 12oz bottle. Hopefully it’s large enough!
  4. Snack and Sandwich Bags – I have a variety of these including some from lunch skins and pottery barn kids, with other local options including gogobags. I plan to use these for either snacks, packed separately from lunch, or take them with me for after-school pick-up, since I expect full-day K will be hungry work and we’re planning on walking to/from school! 
  5. Insulated Food Jar / Thermos – for days when you want to pack a hot lunch. We have cute thermoses from Crocodile Creek, though if I could do it again, I would purchase a thermos with a wider mouth such as the Klean Kanteen vacuum insulated container.
  6. Snack kit – for days when I want to pack a larger snack, or send a hot lunch in a thermos with some additional food, I purchased the PlanetBox Shuttle. I’m tired of washing a million snack containers, so I have two of these now to simplify day trips and picnics too!
  7. Labels – we have a basic kit of Mabel’s Labels that we’ve been using for a couple of years now to mark bottles, bags and containers as well as shoes and spare clothes. I’ve never had a single label peel off. 
  8. Smoothie Pouch – we often have smoothies for snack. They are great to make ahead and freeze. My favourite brand is the Sili Squeeze (see review here). 
  9. Art Smock – A simple art smock that is easy to put on and covers the full arms helps for kids who don’t like to get messy. 
  10. Love – This goes without saying! It’s a big change and our kids will need our help through it. Take some inspiration from the Napkin Notes Dad and perhaps slip a little drawing or printable in with your lunch bag. I am currently DIYing a dry-erase or chalk magnet for our lunchbox and have a few fun lunch forks and things to bring a smile to my son’s face during the day. 

The PlanetBox Rover Makes Lunches Fun

Aiden will be heading to Kindergarten in September and I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what and how I’ll be packing his snack and lunch. I’ve been lucky to stay at home with Aiden, so his options for lunch have always included the ability to warm up, toast or cook something. Even at preschool, he’s offered a hot lunch each day. All of that will soon change. 

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PlanetBox Rover Lunchbox Review

I have been testing the PlanetBox Rover Complete as our lunch solution for a couple of weeks now. My Journey to choosing the PlanetBox is included below, but now I’ll share with you how the choice solves many of my lunch planning challenges. 

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PlanetBox makes a variety of lunch and snack boxes, the most popular being the Rover. If you purchase the entire PlanetBox Rover Complete, you get the carry bag in a choice of colours. The carry bag has a generous pocket for a water bottle, a strap and handle for carrying, and a large velcro pocket (which I plan to use for the school snack). The interior of the case has a pocket where you could place an ice pack.

The interior of the PlanetBox is very generous, rounded on both top and bottom so you can even fit bulky items like bagels. The capacity of the box is one of the highest on the market. While it may be more than a Kindergartener will need, lunch is Aiden’s biggest meal of the day and I’d rather pack too much than too little.

The Complete set comes with the Dipper set, for wet or messy foods. The Little Dipper is perfect for dressings or dips (we’ve used it for honey for apples) and the Big Dipper is perfect for yogurt or wet fruit. Both Dippers can fit in the box when closed, though I’ve also used the Big Dipper in the exterior case pocket. 

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The PlanetBox Rover is a single piece made from stainless steel. The exterior comes plain, though you can buy a variety of Rover Magnets to decorate them (the Complete comes with one set) – I’m pretty sure the Train design will be going in Aiden’s stocking next year! We also added our Mabel’s Labels to the magnet. 

The clasp on the lunchbox is easy for Aiden to open and to close. He can also open and close the Dippers with ease. The entire box easily slides into the lower rack of our dishwasher for cleaning and the rounded corners of each compartment seem to help it get really clean. 

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Does Aiden like it? YES! He always asks for lunch in his “tray”, and it really forces me to give him a greater variety of food. Typically his lunches had 3-4 items on it (he’s never loved leftovers for lunch), so this usually gives me an excuse to add in the extra veggie or fruit. 

Do I like it? YES! I love having things organized and the tray forces me to be creative, which I enjoy. I know school lunches will become boring all too quickly! The smallest compartment is a nice place to add a treat – it’s the smallest portion, to remind you to balance the meal. I was very pleased that our entire bread fit in the largest compartment, as I know some people have trouble with that. Will we use it every day for school? We will see. I expect that on days I send hot food in a Thermos, I’ll still use our other lunch box and containers. 

Purchase Details

The PlanetBox Rover Complete, the full set, sells for USD$59.95, plus shipping, and is one of the more expensive bento sets on the market. That said, I think the size and sturdy construction makes it something that our kids will be able to use for years to come. 

If you are looking for meal ideas, PlanetBox has a fantastic meal planning app on their website, though you can also find inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram (I love the weelicious lunches). 

My Journey to the PlanetBox

For years, we’ve been packing our snacks or lunches into our Pottery Barn lunch boxes in a variety of containers, mostly using the Wean Green containers since they arrange well and can be opened easily by little fingers. That said, I was TIRED OF ALL THE DISHES. The top of our dishwasher is perpetually crammed with containers and trying to find the right combination of containers to fit the lunch box can be annoying. 

For many months, I’ve been researching bento boxes to offer a better alternative to lunch packing. Most bento boxes, however, didn’t solve the CONTAINER OVERLOAD I was feeling, as many still involved the arrangement of smaller containers into a larger tray. The ones that did work, like the Pottery Barn Bento that I was considering, had reviews of the plastic breaking and I couldn’t figure out how to insert items that may be wet (yogurt, watermelon). Some bento boxes seemed to big or oddly shaped or too small. I worried about how to pack lunch and snack – in one box? A second container? I spent far too many hours researching options and reading reviews. 

In steps the PlanetBox, the only bento that met all my requirements: easy to clean, multi-compartment, decent size, easy for kids to open and close. As a bonus, it came with several other amazing features, as you could read above. I am actually looking forward to testing out the lunch box properly once Aiden goes to school in September!

Want to check my progress? Follow me on Instagram as I share some of our more fun lunch creations. 

Disclosure: I received the PlanetBox Complete for a review, though I was already planning on buying it! All opinions are my own. 

The Case Against the Bumbo

You’d be hard pressed to find a baby who doesn’t have one. It’s sold in most specialty baby stores. It’s so well marketed, you’d think it was a ‘necessity’ item like a crib or a stroller. It’s a Bumbo. And you probably don’t need it.

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The Bumbo is a moulded seat that helps your baby sit upright without the need for straps. The product is marketed for babies aged 3 months to 14 months. The website touts the product as being for “hands free baby care”… seriously, can I sign up for that? Cause I’ve never had that, Bumbo or no Bumbo.

We didn’t think we’d get the Bumbo, even though everyone had one. We held off. But then our doctor suggested it would help Aiden learn to sit. So we almost felt like bad parents for not getting a Bumbo. We caved. He HATED it. Max use was about 5 minutes, and at no time could I just let him sit there without giving him toys. He hated being confined and it wasn’t long before he learned to push his bum up to get out.

Then there’s the size – being made of moulded foam, it really does have a max baby size. I think the 14 months refers to a pretty small baby. Aiden can still fit in his Bumbo, but most of the time it sits collecting dust in our livingroom. Sometimes we pull it out as a way to feed him if we have guests over, but he hates it. We have the play tray too, but that thing is impossible to get on.

I think there’s the case to be made for the Bumbo. If you have twins, for example. Or if you have a really chill and mellow baby. If your baby doesn’t mind sitting in one spot for a long time, maybe he’d like a Bumbo. Does he like the bouncy chair or swing? If so, chances are better he’d like the Bumbo. But if your baby, like mine, is a mover and needs to be doing different things all the time (even when he can’t), then don’t think he’s going to enjoy being in a rigid chair like the Bumbo.

So, hold off on this ‘necessity’ or borrow it from a friend. Get to know your baby – I’m pretty sure you’ll know if the Bumbo is his kind of thing or not. And trust me, he’ll learn to sit just fine without it.

An Open Letter to the Manufacturers of Baby Products

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Here is Zayden with one of his Easter basket presents. It didn't even make it through the whole weekend.

To Whom It May Concern:

If you claim that part of your product can be  removed for cleaning, it should not take a full-grown adult 45 minutes to dismantle it in order to do so. On a related note, babies are messy.  Why would you make a baby product with a fabric seat, cover, etc. that cannot be removed for cleaning? Furthermore, why make a product with little nooks and crannies where drool, spit up and baby food can collect?

For those of you who make clothing for infants, please note that the average new parent does not employ an array of servants to do their laundry. We do not have time for baby clothes that need to be hand washed, hung to dry and/or ironed. Babies squirm a lot, making them hard to dress, so we would appreciate wider neck holes and generous waistbands that can be easily pulled up over a diaper. And we’d especially love it if you could come up with designs for socks and shoes that stay on baby’s feet for longer than 3 minutes.

Until they are much older, babies like to play with their toys by banging them on the ground, smashing them together and chewing on them. Please make toys that can stand up to this kind of abuse. And for those of you who make the toys with the music, sound effects and flashing lights that babies love so much, we’d appreciate a volume control option. And maybe you could coordinate your efforts so that your toys play more than the same 5 nursery songs (I have seriously had “Old Macdonald” stuck in my head for 6 months). We’d also like to see more bath toys without squirt holes so that we didn’t have to worry about mildew and bacteria growing inside.

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Zayden chews on the straps of his highchair, which are almost impossible to remove for cleaning.

Also consider how fast babies grow and how we will use these products. When the average baby will weigh over 25lbs. by his or her first birthday and it is considered safest for children to be rear-facing up to 30 lbs., why make an infant car seat that only goes up to 22lbs.? Why make a convertible car seat that renders the front passenger seat essentially useless when it is installed in the rear-facing position (unless you own an H3 or a spacious minivan, you  know what I’m talking about)?

I could go on. Don’t get me started on pricing or impossible to follow assembly instructions or the marketing of products that are essentially unnecessary as baby essentials. Just get real already.

Sincerely,

A Frustrated Mother

Dékor Diaper Pail: Review

IMG_1824Although we’ve always been on the fence about using disposable diapers, we know we’re simply not organized enough to get on the cloth diaper bandwagon. To go along with our disposable diapering system, we chose the Dékor Diaper Pail.

We chose this over comparable brands because it seemed like an easy system to use – just step on the pedal and toss in the diaper – and it uses biodegradable diaper bags. The bag system is a tubular bag system that you tie off at each end, so it’s pretty easy to use.

Like advertised, the diaper bin does a great job keeping odors down… until you have to toss in another diaper. Since each diaper is not individually wrapped, which seemed wasteful to us, you can catch a whiff of the lovely warm mess inside.

As for the bin, it’s otherwise quite great. We change the bag about every 7-10 days, though not all our diapers go in that bin (we change diapers downstairs too) and Aiden doesn’t go through a huge number of diapers per day. I have never counted how many diapers fit in the pail, but it’s probably upwards of 40 diapers. You can really stuff them in there, though that’s just usually us being lazy about changing the bag.

The one downside I see to the product is that the latch to open the front to change the bag is not as child-proof as it could be. I can foresee Aiden figuring out how to undo the latch, which could expose the in-built bag cutting edge inside. This is a hypothetical though, but it’s something I’ve considered.

Purchased from Jack & Lola