Fun Non-Candy Activity Goodie Bag Party Favor Ideas (Plus a Free Printable Zombie Word Search)

Non-Candy activity goodie bag ideas for classroom and party favors (plus free printable zombie word search)  |
Thank you to Oriental Trading Company for providing the party favors used in creating the activity goodie bags featured below.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Earlier this week, my oldest turned 11.  He'll be moving onto middle school next year and I'm still having a little trouble accepting it.  Since this is his last year of grade school, I wanted to make sure we sent some fun goodie bags to school for his birthday.  We always send non-food goodie bags due to there being so many students suffering from a variety of allergies, plus the school does not allow sweets to be sent in for birthday celebrations.  We do this for all 3 of our children, who all happen to have birthdays in January.  Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a fun new idea.  Thank goodness I found some inspiration from Oriental Trading Company!

Our twins will be turning 8 later this month.  Their goodie bags were easy to put together.  Since our family went to the local Super MegaFest comic convention, our children have been obsessed with drawing their own comics.  So, when I saw these superhero-themed party favors, I just knew I had to create something fun with them.  That's when I had the idea to make DIY comic book kits for the twins' 2nd grade classmates!

Make-your-own comic book goodie bags for classroom and birthday party favors  |

What you'll need to make DIY Superhero Comic Book Goodie Bags . . . 

There are 100 stickers on the roll, so I had enough to put one sticker inside each of the goodie bags and to place one outside of each bag to seal it.  These books have a framed space for drawing on each page, as well as lines below for writing.  I think one frame per page is perfect for 2nd graders.  The twins can't wait to hand these out to their classmates!

Like this idea? Pin it for later . . .
Make-your-own comic book writing activity goodie bags for classroom and birthday party favors  |

For my oldest son, the theme of his goodie bags changed several times.  One thing that stayed the same was the nose pencil sharpeners.  After he saw them on Oriental Trading, he just had to have them.  After playing with a few different body part themes, we settled on the ever-popular zombie theme.
Zombie-themed goodie bags with free printable word search for classroom and birthday party favors  |

What you'll need to make Zombie Activity Goodie Bags . . .

Printable Zombie Word Search (at bottom)

Apparently zombies are extremely popular with 10 and 11 year olds.  The goodie bags were a big hit and our son was thrilled to finally have a nose pencil sharpener.

Pin this idea for later . . . 
Zombie-themed goodie bags (with free printable word search activity) for classroom or birthday party favors  |

TO PRINT:  Check to make sure your computer's printer is on and ready to go.  Click on the desired image to enlarge.  Then right-click on the image and select print.  Use your browser's back button to return to this page.

Zombie Word Search (plus Answer Key)
Free printable zombie-themed word search puzzle  | Answer key for free printable zombie-themed word search puzzle  |

I made the above free printable word search puzzle with the help of Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker.  This particular puzzle is difficult and would be perfect for adults and older children.  Enjoy!

Is Anyone Else Exhausted?

Rudolph and the Elf on the Shelf  |
I know my husband and I are only two among the millions of parents out there with young children who gave each other a high five for surviving another Christmas and then promptly took a long nap while their children played with all their new toys.  Well, I actually did not take a nap, but rather enjoyed the quiet of children playing contently and a husband plus two puppies snoring softly.  While I sat here, I thought briefly about what lengths we as parents go to in order to keep the magic alive for yet another year.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of shopping, wrapping paper, advent calendars, gift bags, baking, elves, Santa letters, ribbon, bows, Toys For Tots, parties, photos, magic keys, holiday cards, tree ornaments, stockings, school events, milk and cookies, and much more.

In the end, we think it's worth it, no matter how exhausting it is.  I hope that our children will someday do the same for their own children.

A photo posted by Karen Coutu (@karen3g2s) on

How was your holiday?

Becoming a Savvier Homeowner in the New Year! #WinterIsComing

How to prepare for winter as a homeowner #WinterIsComing  |
We are sharing our experiences as homeowners as part of a sponsored campaign on behalf of Payton & Co. and its client, American Home Shield.

Growing up I always assumed our family home was always functional and nothing ever stopped working. As an adult with my own home and family, I understand now that notion could not be further from the truth. Sometimes it seems like there is a new issue every day of varying severity.

I remember once walking down my stairs early one morning and hearing a water trickling sound coming from the kitchen. I thought maybe somebody left the water running in the sink….. If I only was so lucky. The water line to the refrigerator’s ice maker had snapped! The entire kitchen was flooded and the water was running into the basement. You can imagine we had a bad day. But the problem wasn't just the clean-up, it was also about the expense. Homeowners insurance is such a hassle I just dealt with the expense myself.

Another aspect of homeownership I did not fully appreciate while growing up was the routine maintenance required just to keep everything working properly . . . batteries for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, air filters, cleaning vents, and on and on and on!

We just recently had our broken clothes dryer replaced. It turns out, the dryer had burned out because the vent hoses were too clogged with years and years worth of lint. It had never occurred to me to take it down once in awhile and clean it out. The installation crew told me that not only did the clogged vents contribute to breaking the dryer, it was a major fire hazard!

At that point I realized that I needed to educate myself on maintaining my house’s systems better. I promised myself that I would not let a lack of knowledge create a dangerous situation for my family again. I also realized that I needed to find a way to ease the unexpected expense that comes with these problems and emergencies. I cannot afford to buy a new appliance each time something goes wrong.  With another unpredictable winter upon us here in New England, the cold sometimes makes such emergencies even worse.

There is seemingly an unlimited amount of resources online to help with increasing your homeowners knowledge. There are countless videos, blogs, forums, and podcasts that cover just about everything. There are also companies that offer protection plans for all of your appliances and home systems that fill in the gap between insurance and out of pocket expenses.

American Home Shield is a website that not only offers information to better maintain your home, they also offer protection plans that can help the financial strain of unexpected issues with your home's systems and appliances. I can't speak for everybody, but the idea of a small budgetable monthly fee is appealing to me over the cost of repairing or replacing an appliance or heating unit. I don't always have a spare $2,000 laying around!

This winter, my resolution is to be a much savvier homeowner, in both maintenance and cost. What are your goals as a homeowner for the new year?

Countdown to Christmas with Refillable DIY Chalkboard Advent Calendar Ornaments

DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft  |
This is an easy Christmas craft I had thought about making two months ago.  I actually purchased all the supplies at Michael's Arts & Crafts several weeks ago.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to sit down and make this advent calendar craft until two days before December began.  Even though you won't be able to countdown for the whole 24 days, you could still countdown the remaining 12 days or 10 days this year and start at the beginning of December next year.  That's one of the things I love about this advent calendar, it is completely refillable and reusable!

(24) chalkboard ornaments with clips and twine
(24) 10" pieces of festive ribbon (approximately 3/8" wide)
small candies or toys (to fill the bags)

TIP #1:  If you cannot find pre-made chalkboard ornaments like the ones shown, you could easily make your own with chalkboard ornaments, mini clothespins, a roll of twine, and some glue.  Likewise, if you cannot find printed burlap bags, you could use rubber stamps to decorate plain ones.
DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft Tutorial  |

Step 1.  Assemble the chalkboard ornaments, whether you purchased kits or are making your own, This includes cutting the twine into (24) 6" segments, threading them through each ornament, and tying them off at the top.  Trim off an excess to make the ends short and even.
Easy DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft Tutorial  |

Step 2.  Tie the ribbon around the twine right at the top of the chalkboard ornament.  Form a small bow and trim the ends to make them even.

Step 3.  Repeat Step 2 for the other 23 ornaments.
Easy DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft How-To  |

Step 4.  Use the chalk to number your ornaments from 1 to 24.
TIP #2:  The chalkboard ornaments I bought seemed like they had chalkboard paper on them.  As a result, it was not easy to erase the chalk, even with a damp paper towel.  If this is true for your chalkboard ornaments, I recommend that you use a chalk holder to hold the chalk so you can write more easily without making too many errors.  If you're confident enough, you could also use permanent white paint pens to draw the numbers.
Step 5.  Fill your bags with something fun for your children to find each day.  Every year, we include one small piece of candy for each child along with a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces.  (This year, we upgraded to a challenging 400-piece puzzle.  It took my husband and I five hours to assemble it before we divided the pieces between the 24 bags.)
Easy DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft How-To  |

We hung our advent ornaments on a garland high up along the rafter that separates our living room from our dining area.  You could also hang them on your Christmas tree or make a calendar using a board and 24 nails.  If you have other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

If you like this advent calendar craft, be sure to Pin It for later . . . 
DIY Advent Calendar Countdown to Christmas Chalkboard Ornaments Craft How-To  |

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