Summer Sensory Bins

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Ahhh, summer…that wonderful time of year when the weather is nice and life seems simpler. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when kids seem even more restless and even though some things about parenting may be easier, the sensory needs of your child don’t automatically disappear.

In fact, the sensory needs of some kids become more noticeable in the summer as they adjust to the changes in routine.

15 Summer Sensory BinsTo combat this challenge with my kids, many of whom have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I use sensory stations. Sensory stations are even easier to set up in the summer because so many of them can be set up outside with little to no preparation. One sensory station that we always keep year-round is a sensory bin. I make a new sensory bin every week or two.

Sensory Station Ideas for the home or classroomEven though my kids are getting older, they have not outgrown sensory bins. They still play in them and after spending time with one, they are calmer and more able to focus.

These ideas will help inspire you to create your own sensory bin for your kids this summer:

Summer Sensory Bin here at The Chaos and The Clutter

Frog Life Cycle Sensory Bin from Teaching Mama

Starfish and Sand Dollar Shaving Cream Tray from The House of Burke

Water Sensory Tray here at The Chaos and The Clutter

Edible Sand Sensory Activity from A Little Pinch of Perfect

Fizzy Ocean Sensory Bin from Wildflower Ramblings

Seaside Sensory Bin here at The Chaos and The Clutter

Beach Themed Water Sensory Table for Toddlers from Golden Reflections Blog

Summer Sensory Bin IdeasSparkling Ocean Playdough from Stir the Wonder

Calming Lavender Sensory Bin here at The Chaos and The Clutter

Sea Turtle Sensory Bin from Teaching Mama

Watermelon Sensory Play from Little Bins for Little Hands

Garden Sensory Pail here at The Chaos and The Clutter

Ocean Sensory Bin from Happy Hooligans

Gardening Sensory Bin from Mama Papa Bubba

For hundreds of other sensory bin ideas, you can also follow my Sensory Bins board on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Sensory Bins on Pinterest.

If you are looking for information on making sensory bins, you may be interested in my book. The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Bins

5 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hasbro THE GAME OF LIFE. All opinions are my own.

As parents, part of our job is to help prepare our children for adulthood. This includes preparing them for budgeting and finances, teaching them life skills, giving them a solid foundation in their faith and relationships, and guiding them in their education and career choices.

5 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a CareerImage Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

At different times during my growing up years, I wanted to be a police detective, a teacher, a writer, and a forensic psychiatrist but I never did much research into what any of those careers would entail or even what they would pay or what education was required.

I want to equip my kids with what they will need to make informed career choices for their futures. While what you do does not dictate who you are, it can be a factor that contributes to your overall happiness and quality of life.

Here are some of the ways that we have found effective in helping our children think about their future career:

Determine where their interests lie.

Ask your child what type of careers interest them. It is natural for younger children to be drawn towards careers of service such as firefighters and police officers and nurses, but as they get a bit older, their answers may begin to change and demonstrate more of an aptitude towards their interests or their talents.

We teach our kids that one of the places success is found is at the intersection where natural ability meets hard work.

We encourage them to think of careers where their God-given skills and talents would have an opportunity to shine if they put in the preparation and work.


Once they have a few ideas of careers that may suit them, we have them research the education requirements, salary, challenges, and benefits of each potential choice. With the information they research, they narrow down their choices further.

An excellent way to research is to attend career fairs. This can introduce them to options they may not have already considered and allow them to ask questions.

Job Shadow or Interview.

There is only so much you can learn about a career from a book or internet research. Once your child is a bit older and has narrowed down their career choices, I suggest having them interview someone with that career or job shadow them for at least a day.

Our oldest was able to job shadow my nephew in his job as a plumber when he was considering that as an option. Our son is presently working full time as a plumber himself now that he is an adult.

Our second oldest is considering becoming a doctor, so earlier this year, he job shadowed our daughter’s pulmonary specialist for a day. He also interviewed him about aspects of his job that he enjoys or finds challenging and asked for advice. It was an invaluable learning experience for our son and has given him more to consider.

Our younger five kids are still in the earlier stages of determining what they want to be when they grow up, but we will also have them follow this protocol when they are closer to making that decision.

Let them dream.

While you obviously want your kids to be somewhat realistic, limiting their career options to just the most commonly thought of ones may be doing them a disservice. Let your child dream big. Let them explore all kinds of possibilities.

Allow them to see that the options are limitless and that they may also have more than one career in their lifetime so it’s good to keep an open mind.

Make the process FUN.

When you were a child, did you ever play THE GAME OF LIFE game? It’s been around since 1960! I remember playing it over at a friend’s house when I was younger.

We love using board games as a teaching tool! We recently had the chance to play the updated version of THE GAME OF LIFE game and it opened doors for all kinds of discussions on future careers and life choices.

Making Career Path FunThere are many things in the game that make good conversation starters and introducing some of them during a Family Fun Night makes it not seem like parental nagging! In the beginning of the game, players have the choice of going directly to a career or first going to college so that their career choices will be higher paying. Just like in real life, if they choose college, they must pay tuition and they must wait longer for their first payday. Another example of a great discussion starter is the option later on to choose night school.

This was a point we were able to personalize because my husband did not go to college after graduating high school. Instead, he traveled and worked at lower paying jobs but after getting married and having a few kids, he made the choice to go back to school. It was hard work but it paid off when he was able to get into a higher paying career in IT afterwards. He found that he didn’t enjoy his job though, so later went to night school and became a mortgage broker, a career he absolutely loves. Being able to relate this to our kids during that portion of the game was an effective way to show the value of both hard work and education.

Family Game NightTHE GAME OF LIFE game also had choices related to risk and family and home ownership, all very important topics to discuss with your children.

One of the parts of the game that was the most fun was when careers were chosen. In the updated version of the game, the new careers include Singer, Secret Agent, Veterinarian, Teacher, Doctor, Professional Athlete, Scientist, Fashion Designer, Lawyer, Inventor, Chef, Race Car Driver, Dancer, Police Officer, Firefighter and Video Game Designer. All of the career cards created a fun, engaging way to talk to our kids about what they might want to be when they grow up.

Our daughter, Miss Optimism has a dream of becoming a fashion designer. I didn’t tell her that it was one of the new career choices in the game ahead of time and she was so excited when it was one of the career cards she drew! This video (ignore her sister being grabby – that’s just proof that my kids are as real as anyone else’s!) shows her reaction:

We had a wonderful Family Fun Night playing THE GAME OF LIFE game and eating snacks together. We laughed a bunch and enjoyed our time. It’s easy to see that this game has moved into our regular board game rotation because the kids have played it every day for the past five days!

THE GAME OF LIFE game retails for $19.99 and is for 2-4 players, ages 8 years & older. It is available at most major retailers nationwide and at

Personal note: Although it suggests ages 8 and older, our youngest who has delays and is much younger than that developmentally was able to play with a bit of extra help. Also, as we have a larger family and the game only allows 4 players at a time, we let one child not playing be the banker and that worked well. Since they all wanted to take turns at that, no one felt left out.

GameOfLifeInfographic-01This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hasbro THE GAME OF LIFE.

Traveling with a Child Who has Anxiety

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I began writing this on the home stretch of a three week road trip with six of our kids. Two of them have anxiety disorders. While I’m certainly not a professional in this area, over the years, we’ve done a fair amount of traveling and have discovered some thing that are helpful.

Traveling with a child who has anxiety can be challenging. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help your next trip go more smoothly for your entire family!Hopefully some of these suggestions will help your next trip go more smoothly for your entire family!


When traveling, it is impossible to hold to the same routine that you have at home. There are aspects of the routine that you can try to keep as close to normal as possible. While you may not be able to keep mealtimes on the same timeline as at home, you can ensure that you have a snack on you at all times and set an alarm on your watch or phone so that each day at snack time, they get a little something to eat. You can do this whether you are on an airplane, in a car, on a bus, at an activity, or in a hotel room at that time of day.

Bedtimes will likely be at erratic times even if you try for them not to be. You may not have as much control over the time of this, but you can still control some of the routine that happens. If you usually have story time at home before bed, take this habit with you on the road.

On this trip, I brought a read-aloud and read one chapter a day to the kids. We also stuck to our usual bedtime routine when tucking the kids in. We asked them about their day and prayed with them before tucking them in.

Morning routines are a bit easier to stick to while on vacation. Have your child do things just as they would at home…eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, make bed.

Keeping as much routine as you can will help lower anxiety and keep some sense of normalcy while your child is away from their usual environment.

Bring comfort items.

Be sure to bring a few things from home that your child considers comfort items. These are most often items such as a blanket or a special stuffed animal.

I also bring some items from our daughter’s anti-anxiety kit such as her relaxation prompts and sound therapy machine. I keep things like fidget toys handy at all times. We keep several of our homemade sensory balls in the vehicle for road trips.


The more prepared a child is for a situation, the more in control they will feel most of the time. It is often the unknown that contributes to higher levels of anxiety. Just as you would give warning at home before a change in activity to prepare them, it is wise to do this while traveling.

I suggest starting as far in advance of the trip as you can. While not all of our trip was mapped out before we left, I took all the places I knew we would be going to for sure and wrote them onto calendars for my kids. We then researched those places. I showed them pictures of each of the attractions we would be going to and gave them the chance to ask any questions they had.

An example would be that in San Francisco, we were planning to visit Alcatraz. I showed them pictures of Alcatraz on the computer, showed them pictures of their dad and I in Alcatraz in a scrapbook (this made it seem much safer to them). I explained that in order to get to it, we would have to take a short ferry ride. I answered their questions about all aspects of that activity.

Travel with a Child with AnxietyA common question that our youngest daughter had about many of the activities I prepared her for was if we might lose her there in the crowd. I gave her an answer specific to that location. An example is that at Disneyland, the staff always asks how many people there are in your party so that they can get you on the ride at the same time and you don’t get separated. We also chose a meeting place for every location that we visited.


I tried to do a check-in each day on our trip of how the kids were feeling. The days that we got in too late for that to happen, we usually paid for it the next day, so I would say that communication is key.

We prepared them for what the day following would hold and then debriefed about the day we had just finished and shared any worries they had for the following day.

Anticipate meltdowns.

No matter how much you try to prepare and communicate, there will still likely be meltdowns and fight or flight moments when taking a child who suffers from anxiety into a different environment and out of their routine.

Watch their cues. You more than likely will have some idea that a meltdown is coming before it occurs and you may be able to head it off at the pass. Try these suggestions:

  • redirect
  • avoid triggers
  • feed regularly
  • plenty of sleep
  • if they feel a lack of control=give choices

If you are looking for other engaging education ideas, you may want to subscribe to my email newsletter or follow me on Pinterest.

Create an Anti-Anxiety Kit for Your Child including free printable relaxation promptsHelping a Child Through Trauma

Resources to Teach Kids About Emotions and How to Handle Them

100 Gluten Free Snack Ideas

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I’ve written about this before because it has been one of the hardest things to adjust to since having a child who is on a gluten free diet. Breakfasts are fairly easy to accomodate as are lunch and supper, but the snacks and treats I run into trouble with.

I need ideas of things that we can grab quickly or bring with us when we go out. Also, Einstein is growing like a weed and like any growing boy, he is hungry almost all of the time!

100 Gluten Free Snack Ideas perfect for kids

I have been adding to my list of gluten free snack ideas over time and have made it into a printable list.

Gluten Free Snack Ideas

  • carrots, cucumbers, celery
  • carrots with honey mustard dip
  • apples
  • rice crackers and cheese
  • gluten free snack mix (link to recipe)
  • rice crackers and hummus
  • apples and caramel
  • frozen grapes
  • sweet potato fries (homemade or by Alexia)
  • sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • peanut butter, hummus, or baba ghanouj on rice cakes
  • oranges
  • salsa and tortilla chips
  • guacamole and tortilla chips
  • hard boiled eggs
  • popcorn
  • popsicles
  • raisins or craisins
  • cream cheese on a rice cake, topped with jam
  • pudding
  • jello
  • gluten free Chex mix (link to recipe)
  • Glutino pretzels
  • trail mix (Gorilla Munch, mini marshmallows, raisins, sunflower seeds, nuts)
  • pickles
  • chocolate milk
  • gluten free rice krispie squares (these can be made ahead, cut up, and frozen)
  • peppers
  • pineapple
  • cottage cheese
  • zucchini
  • gluten free cookies
  • applesauce
  • homemade lunchables (gluten free sausage, cheese, rice crackers)
  • bananas
  • snap peas
  • broccoli or cauliflower with dip
  • yogourt or frozen yogourt
  • tzatziki with red peppers
  • garbanzo beans
  • fruit leather
  • gluten free luncheon meat rolled up in lettuce
  • pickled asparagus, carrots, or jarred olives
  • kiwi, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes, cherries
  • frozen berries
  • fruit salad
  • Sensible Portions Veggie Straws or Veggie Chips
  • Surprise Spread with tortilla chips or rice crackers
  • gluten free mini muffins made ahead and frozen
  • Udi’s gluten free cinnamon buns
  • Monkey Munch made with gf Chex
  • dried mangoes or pineapple
  • quesadillas made with Udi’s gf tortillas
  • kale chips
  • apple sandwiches – spread apple slice with peanut or almond butter, sprinkle with gf granola, raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, or mini marshmallows and top with another apple slice
  • smoothies
  • fruit kabob
  • ants on a log – celery stick filled with peanut butter, almond butter or cream cheese and topped with raisins
  • frozen yogourt made either by freezing drops on a cookie sheet or by filling fun shaped ice cube containers and freezing them
  • snow ice cream (link to recipe)
  • dry gf cereal
  • Udi’s gf granola on yogourt or applesauce
  • pickled beets, carrots, beans or asparagus
  • fruit salad
  • frozen yogourt dipped strawberries or blueberries
  • parmesan crisps
  • chickpeas roasted with olive oil, paprika or cayenne or curry and garlic
  • baked egg in avocado – half an avocado, crack egg in center, sprinkle with pepper, salt and cheese and bake until egg is cooked
  • devilled eggs
  • shrimp cocktail
  • black or green olives
  • toast made with gf bread
  • California rolls
  • potato puffs
  • tuna salad wrapped in lettuce
  • microwave s’mores using gf graham crackers
  • gf bacon wrapped dates – secure with a toothpick and bake
  • baby tomato, cheese and gherkin pickle on a toothpick
  • edamame beans
  • red and yellow peppers
  • pineapple slices
  • organic tortilla chips
  • gluten free sausage
  • four cheese rice crackers
  • orange slices
  • sushi
  • gluten free Granola Muffins (link to recipe)
  • mini pizzas made on a gluten free English muffin
  • gf luncheon meat and cheese or cream cheese rolled in a gf tortilla
  • banana sliced down middle and filled with peanut or almond butter
  • pomegranate seeds
  • greek salad or quinoa greek salad (link to recipe)
  • gluten free granola bars
  • gluten free brownies (Udi’s makes good ones and the mix from Bulk Barn is good too)

100 gluten free snack ideasI hope you enjoy this free printable list of gluten free snack ideas and find it helpful. You may also be interested in following my Gluten Free Recipes Board on Pinterest for more gluten free goodness!

Chicken Dump