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School gear for little ones

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Helen Bell

Helen Bell, 1, is the third child and first girl of the family, so mom Jill went all out on pink for Mother’s Day Out school gear.

Buzz Baby is a column about life with babies from the perspective of a first-time mother.

Summer flew in a flash, and at the end of this month, kids head to school. For older kids, this season usually means buying flash cards, notebooks and tough backpacks to hold heavy books. For little ones who attend a program like Mother’s Day Out or daycare, it means shopping for cute nap mats, adorable little backpacks and personalized name-label stickers for sippy cups.

I heard from some Buzz parents over the summer about their favorite gear for their littlest students.

Jill Bell, a mom of 3, said she is excited for her daughter and first girl Helen, now 1, to start school this year. She decided to go all-out with “girl colors” for her school bag and lunch box since her 6-year-old twin boys’ bags were all blue.

Jill said when the boys started school 4 years ago, she bought everything coordinating, blue and white seersucker backpacks, lunchboxes and nap mats – all times two. “It was adorable, and I practically needed a wagon to bring it all into school each morning,” said Jill, laughing. “Now, with Helen, everything is pink, which is a fun change. I still love the Mint brand from the The Monogram Shop, but this nap mat is Stephen Joseph to change things up a little. I’m also a little wiser now, knowing that the school provides canvas totes, so no need for a matching backpack.”

Jill said it’s also a good idea to have some items that are loved at home doubled up for school. “I also found a ‘school’ lovey [blanket] and stuffed it into the boys’ nap mats. It stayed in the nap mat every day, so I never had to worry about leaving it at home or school. I’ll definitely do the same for Helen. She is already using it at the gym childcare. It’s her special stuffed animal just for that occasion, so we will use the same for school.”

Another important thing to remember when sending your little baby or tot off to school is to label everything. I learned the hard way that taking a Sharpie marker to a sippy cup is like using chalk on the sidewalk; it fades with one wash. Some parents, including Valerie Daugherty, turn to personalized label stickers.

Valerie’s 6-year-old son Brock started school when he was a newborn. “We used NameBubbles labels,” said Valerie.

NameBubbles can be personalized and are dishwasher safe (a lot better than my Sharpie idea).

Valerie also found a lunchbox she loves at her local grocery store. “Skip Hop worked well for backpack and lunchbox, although my favorite lunchbox was one I picked up at HEB from [the brand] PackIt. It was a foldable lunch bag that you put in the freezer. No extra ice packs needed once the bag is frozen. They aren’t cute, but nice since you don’t need extra packs,” said Valerie.

Mom-of-two and realtor Jenny Seckinger says she used InchBug labels and got bags and nap mats locally in Houston instead of ordering them online. “I wish I would have bought a thicker nap mat,” said Jenny. “I add a blanket in the nap mat to make it more comfortable for the kids.”

It’s also a good idea to stock up on bug spray and sunblock for their bag. “I like the Aveeno sunblock for babies and I use Skin So Soft from Avon for bug spray,” said Jenny. She also said the Mommy Hook Stroller Accessory helps her a lot. “I feel like it is a must. I wouldn’t be able to hold all of the kids stuff and push a stroller if I didn’t have it.”

Mom-of-two Myra Bowyer said she is “all about simplifying” when it comes to school gear. She discovered Yumbox lunch boxes from Amazon for her sons Grant, 4, and Cole, 2. “I was so tired of packing a big lunchbox and 3-4 additional containers to hold sandwiches, fruit, cheese, etc. I wanted something that only required me to open one container but kept food separated.”

Myra described it as compact, lightweight and leak-proof. “My 2 year old can carry his without issues,” said Myra. “My favorite thing about it is I can pack it, close it, shake it like a crazy person, and everything stays put.” They come with four or six compartments and in various colors.

Lauren Foley

Kristi and Jimmy Foley’s daughter Lauren, 6 months, has a wardrobe of monogrammed and smocked outfits for Mother’s Day Out.

Parents of 6-month-old Lauren Foley, Kristi and Jimmy, have been getting her ready for Mother’s Day Out. Kristi says she loves buying smocked outfits off of the Smocked Auctions website and from Doodles in the Rice Village. “Jimmy’s favorite gift item is her little pink monogrammed Prodoh fishing shirt,” said Kristi. “The material provides UPF 50+ sun protection.”

No matter what type of gear you decide to get your littlest student this month, just enjoy picking it all out. Before too long, you’ll be loading up on “real” school supplies like pencils and calculators. That doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun.

For more baby stories, see Annie Blaylock McQueen’s column, “Mommy Moments.” If you have stories to share, leave a comment below or email [email protected].

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