Back to School Guide - Unique Items for the New School Year! (Part 2) ~ Dallas Mom Blog and Fort Worth Mom Blogger: Trendy Mom Reviews
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Back to School Guide - Unique Items for the New School Year! (Part 2)

Welcome back for the second part of our Back to School Guide. Did you know that our Holiday Gift Guides and Back to School Guides are among our most popular posts?  I always write posts in hope of helping others, so I hope that you find inspiration in today's post that features unique and useful items for the new school year!  

Let's start with some food items. If you follow regularly, you know that our family has a tradition of serving a special dinner from Pizzeria Uno on the first day of school. I'm certain that this special dinner will be part of my children's happiest childhood memories because they love these deep dish pizzas for special occasions. Their trendy deep dish pizzas are just a click away through their website!  Personally, I order a few at a time and tuck an extra pizza into our freezer to save for a special occasion such as earning a good grade on an exam.  In addition to deep dish pizzas, I noticed that Pizzeria Uno also added a deep dish cheesecake to the menu. Eli's of Chicago created a special "Deep Dish" cheesecake just for UNO's with a strawberry and white chocolate top.  Add this to your order for an extra memorable First Day of School Dinner!

Slammer's superfood snacks are a staple for our children. They love the taste, but there are a few other reasons that we love them too. First, this brand uses high quality ingredients and many of the varieties are packed with protein and nutrients. The second reason is that the pouches are not messy, so it's easier for preschool teachers to give the kids a snack without a big mess such as cookies, cupcakes, or other foods that cause crumbs. (My son's preschool teachers have commented that they love how I always send low-mess snacks to school with him. They've also appreciated it when I sent them for the entire class.)  Finally, my children and their friends love Slammer's. They are quite popular with the preschool crowd. (Actually, my 8 year old and his friends love them too!)   Try our Slammer's Superfood Pouches Squeeze the Day craft!

Old Trapper is an iconic snack brand for Texans. The ingredients behind the company’s 50 years of success are as short as its actual ingredient list: lean high-quality meat, quality seasonings, real wood-fired smoke and a hands-on manufacturing process. All of their varieties are great, but my family's favorite varieties include Old Fashioned and Peppered.

Let's move on to skincare products. 

CeraVe is our go-to skincare brand. This brand was recommended by my dermatologist several years ago and my family members have used it ever since. Life is often hectic during the school year and having a stable skincare routine is important for all of us, especially for my tween. We all use the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. That's right - all of us! My entire family with different skin types uses this gentle and fragrance-free face wash.  It uses a foaming action to deeply cleanse and remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup. It contains hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture. It then contains niacinamide to calm the skin. 

We also use CeraVe moisturizers, but we use different products for our different skin types. My son is a tween in Texas, so it's critical for him to use good moisturizers and sunscreen.  He uses the CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF30 protection against harmful UVA/UVB rays. His skin appreciates the hyaluronic acid that helps to retain skin's natural moisture. He is quite picky and doesn't like the residue left behind by other brands and formulations of sunscreens. Luckily, CeraVe uses an Invisible Zinc Technology with microfine zinc oxide spreads easily with a clear finish.  He also uses the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion to provide overnight hydration.  Again, this uses the hyaluronic acid to help retain his skin's natural moisture.  The formulation is gentle and non-irritating.   While this is my son's go-to evening moisturizer, I also use it too when my skin is sensitive after facials or laser treatments. I really like that the formulation with niacinamide helps to calm skin.

My husband and I use the CeraVe Skin Renewing line. This line is seriously amazing for our 40-something year old skin. My skin is extremely dry. I have fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes. My laugh lines are also showing my age. My husband has combination skin, but with similar signs of aging. We both use the same CeraVe Skin renewing products. The Cerave Skin Renewing Day Cream and Night Cream products are amazing. These moisturizers not only help to provide intense hydration, but do so using hyaluronic acid to help maintain natural moisture. They also help to improve the appearance of tired skin which is incredibly important in our 40's.  These moisturizers have been part of our routine for over a year now.  We recently added the CeraVe Skin Renewing Gel Oil and CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum. The Gel Oil product contains CeraPlex, a unique blend of five ceramides and sunflower to instantly improve radiance. It helps a lot with dry, dull skin.  We use it in the morning. (If you live in North Texas, this product is especially wonderful if you experience dry and dull skin as the humidity quickly drops during the first month of school.) Finally, the CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum is the solution that my skin needed. This product contains encapsulated retinol and ceramindes to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I know that products with retinol are usually drying, but this product is actually quite gentle and we've been able to use it daily for great results.

Tree Hut is one of my favorite companies. They actually started their business here in north Texas and are now a world-wide brand!  The root of their business is that they strongly believe in natural ingredients to exfoliate, cleanse, nourish, soften, and protect skin. As a Texan mom, I buy Tree Hut products for my entire family. Their iconic sugar and salt scrubs are must-haves for the new school year.  For instance, the Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub with Vitamin C is infused with certified shea butter, and an array of natural oils, including evening primrose, Safflower seed, sweet Almond, avocado, and orange oil. It exfoliates and moisturizes really well. Another one that I love is the Tree Hut Soothing Himalayan Salt Scrub in Cherry Blossom.  This gentle salt scrub is formulated with Certified Shea Butter, and an array of natural oils, including Evening Primrose, Safflower Seed, Sweet Almond, Avocado, and Orange Oil. It exfoliates and moisturizes really well!

We also love subscription services for the new year. 

CASELY is the first company to offer a phone case subscription service. It's a great service to join at the beginning of the school year because you'll receive fresh phone cases throughout the year. Personally, I love their selection of iPhone cases because they have trendy designs that are excellent quality. It's fun to have a subscription to change cases throughout the different seasons.  For instance, my husband uses the High Tide Layered Ocean Waves Case for his iPhone XS MAX. He also uses the Glass Screen Protector that offers premium tempered glass screen protection to help to prevent smudges and scratches. (The screen protector was easy to apply without any bubbles and has been great!) Personally, I have the Cactus Patterned Clear Case for my iPhone. I love the holographic look! I also use the All That Glitter Rose Gold Crystal Case for a sparkling look.  Whether you need an individual accessory or want a subscription, I think that you'll similarly love CASELY!

The new school year is a great time to stock up on basics like socks and underwear, especially when they are on sale. 

New lunch boxes and water bottles are a must-have for the new school year. 

Fruit of the Loom offers bonus packs for the new school year. This is a great time of year to stock up on staples such as socks and underwear because you'll get more for your money during this limited time when they tuck free items into the bonus packs. For instance, some packs that normally contain 5 pairs include 8 pairs in the bonus pack for the same price.   

They also have multi-packs of socks. You won't beat the combination of quality and price. Personally, I love the price and quality of their socks and underwear, especially since my  children often experience growth spurts. Look for them at stores such as Target and Walmart. You may also order from the Fruit of the Loom website here.

Zak Designs offers products for all ages, but I want to highlight some of their trendy child-friendly products for the new school year. My children love the whimsical characters on many of their products while I love that most items are easy to wash in the dishwasher and hold up throughout the school year. Let's start with the Zak Designs Soft Lines set that includes an insulated lunch bag, two compartment bento box, and water bottle. The design is adorable!  This is a great set for preschoolers as the items are excellent quality and easy for them to open and close on their own.  

Of course, Zak Designs is also well known for their licensed sets that feature vivid artwork and stylish designs that give kids a wide variety of ways to show off their distinct tastes. Because when it comes to putting the FUN in functional back-to-school collections, the more options kids have, the happier they tend to be!  My children have the 15 ounce stainless steel bottles in the Disney Pixar Toy Story 4 and Ryan's World designs. My youngest has the Paw Patrol 10 ounce embossed tumbler with a straw that rocks his little world.  These fun water bottles help to keep them hydrated since they love to use them.

Let's also share a product that we keep on hand for cold and flu season. 

The Exergen Smart Glow TemporalScanner™ thermometer is a must-have for those unfortunate times that germs spread quickly at school and your little ones come home with fevers. The Exergen thermometer only takes three seconds to tell you if your child has a fever and is a completely non-invasive as you just scan their forehead. Made in the USA, the Exergen TemporalScanner™ is the number one thermometer used by both nurses and pediatricians and is backed by more than 70 clinical studies. The price tag is $49.99 and you will find it nationwide at major retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Costco, Kroger and BJ’s.

Let's move on to school supplies.

USA Titanium Pencils are excellent quality for reasons that teachers and students love. Teachers and students will both love that they sharpen evenly and write smoothly thanks to the exclusive #2 B graphite core. Plus they have long-lasting erasers. This trendy brand is not only loved by many teachers, but it also supports American workers as it has been located in Lewisburg, Tennessee for the past 57 years.  We order the sharpened pencils so that our children's teachers don't have to worry about sharpening pencils at the beginning of the school year. You'll find them at Walmart.

Scribble Stuff offers a line of fun, bold, and whimsical products. They offer everything from bright and colorful neon colors to glitter colors. They even work amazing scents into some of their products!  I am a big fan of this brand because their products are fun to use and inspire creativity. My children come up with the most amazing artwork thanks in part to the trendy Scribble Stuff supplies that encourage self expression. Let me share a few of my favorite products.  Scribble Stuff Scented Felt Tip Pens are a favorite at my son's school. Not only do these come in bold colors and roll on smoothly, but they also offer unique scents such as watermelon, peach, orange, and more. Scribble Stuff Florescent Gel Pens are really nice because they provide bold colors and the ink rolls on smooth. You may have noticed that Gel Pens are having a moment now and are very popular.  This is the brand that you want thanks to the vivid colors and how the ink rolls so smoothly. The Scribble Stuff Scented Gel Pens Color Palette includes 30 themed gel pens, including Island Sunset, Nature Trails, and Basket O' Berries. Not only do we love the vivid colors and that the ink rolls on smooth, but we are also obsessed with the three scents: 10 passion fruit scents, 10 apple blossom scents, and 10 berry scents. They are fantastic for coloring, drawing, and writing at home or school. The extra touch of how they add fragrance to notes and artwork is sure to be appreciated by your children.  Stock up on them at Walmart.

Finally, let's share a couple of educational toys that provide the opportunity to have fun and relax.  (If you have a tween or teen, these are great alternatives to video games because they will actually learn while having fun!)

Kano's Harry Potter Coding Wand provides an educational and whimsical experience for children who are learning to code. We love fun activities that allow our children to relax at the end of the day and over the weekend. It's even better when a relaxing activity is educational.  The Kano Harry Potter Coding kit allows children to build their own wand to then code and interact with an app to grow jellybeans, make cars fly, and more through the immersive coding experience. This is a great toy for little ones that is sure to create happy childhood memories while building their coding abilities.

When we evaluate whether we want to recommend a tech toy, we consider multiple factors. First, is it well designed so that it is accessible to my child? I'm sure that you've come across many tech toys where it's too confusing and your little one gets frustrated. In the case of this Harry Potter kit, we found that it is very accessible and that it set my son up for success so that the coding was fun.  I actually didn't have to intervene at all. He built the wand and used the app without asking for help. Second, we divide the cost of the tech toy by the number of hours that our child spends with it. I know that parents don't want to spent hundreds of dollars on a toy that loses novelty in a couple of hours.  In the case of this product, I've been using a timer and he has already put 35 hours into it. That comes out to less than $3/hour which I consider pretty awesome. However, he still has many activities left to complete, so we will definitely get even more value out of it.  It is a great deal! Another thing that I love about it is that the coding environment complements my son's schoolwork. It's uses Blockly which is very user friendly for kids and helps to develop basic coding skills. Finally, my little future tech mogul is obsessed with the Kano Harry Potter Coding Wand. He is a chatterbox when it comes to telling people about it. I know that he truly loves it.   This is a must-have tech toy for kids to relax with educational fun throughout the school year.

Tinkering Labs offers the most amazing kit that makes it fun for your little Engineer to build electric-powered robots that move, spin, and doodle. It's called the Electric Motors Catalyst Kit and my son loves it! Let's answer the questions that I mentioned above. First, is the set accessible to my child? Yes, it definitely was accessible. The only time that he asked me for help was to create a new idea that wasn't in the booklet because he loved taking their base designs and then creating slightly different versions with his own special touches. 

The second question is whether it's worth the price. Again, I would never recommend an expensive kit that my child plays with for an hour and then becomes bored. I know that STEM toys are pricey. I always think about the combination of a fun experience and the price when I review educational toys.  In our experience, this kit is a great deal that offers many hours of entertainment.  The kit comes with project ideas (challenges), but really, there is a combinatorial explosion in the number of possibilities once your child completes those challenges. I love this aspect because the freedom is valuable for my son's development. I also love it because this makes the kit very economical when you divide the $55 price tag by the number of hours of play. My son only received it recently, but has already logged 22 hours, making it around $2.50 per hour of play. Of course, he has many other exciting ideas, so I predict that he will easily spend 100+ hours with this kit and that the price per hour of play will eventually be pocket change.

The PBS Kids Playtime Pad is a 7" HD Kid safe Tablet that is packed with fun videos, games, and music. Personally, my 2-year old is thrilled with this trendy tablet that gives him access to his favorite characters in engaging ways. We let him use it while we brush his teeth because it makes him happy for us to brush his teeth.  He recently entered a phase where he throws a tantrum when we put him into his carseat, but those tantrums quickly disappeared once we started to give him the PBS Kids Playtime Pad in the car.  It's nice because we trust PBS Kids and their content, so he is able to have freedom and entertainment in the car while I'm driving. I love that he is learning from Dinosaur Train, Daniel Tiger, Wild Kratts, Dr. Suess, Odd Squad, Arthur, Super Why, and more! The device lets me set a time limit which is great for longer drives. I'm also able to create separate profiles for my children which is great since they have a large age gap and different preferences. The PBS Kids team did an amazing job when they created this device and curated the content so that it is educational, fun, and practical for families with young children.  You'll appreciate it throughout the school year when you are in the car, waiting for a doctor's appointment, sitting at a soccer game for your other children, and more!  

Kidstir offers trendy cooking themed boxes for children. Sign up now to receive boxes throughout the year. For instance, I'll highlight one example box below - the Gobbling Good Fixings kit! With ideas to help your family make memories in the kitchen at this time of the year, the kit contains three simple, easy recipes that kids can whip up for the Thanksgiving Feast, including Zesty Cranberry Sauce, Popcorn Bread and Awesome Apple Stuffing. Plus, encourage gratitude this season by playing the Gratitude Game at the table. It’s a simple way for kids and grown-ups to take a step back, soak up the moment, and revel in all that we have right here, right now. Other upcoming holiday themed kits include the Spooky Celebration Kit and the Winter Wonderland Cookies.

We hope that you enjoyed this Back to School Guide and that many of these products help you out during the new school year!  

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