Clay Flower Pots

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This project couldn’t be simpler, but kids will love playing with the clay and watching their decorations take shape! A great summer craft, especially if you’re teaching your little ones about gardening.

Use any small terracotta pot as the base. I ended up wishing that I had several on hand, because Travis covered his first with clay designs so quickly; consider picking up a few at a craft store ahead of time!

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For the clay, we used Model Magic – it’s easy to work with, mess free, and will air-dry in a few days.

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Travis loved just smooshing on big designs, but older kids can be more deliberate in their art, creating flowers or mini clay gardens. I added a few details as examples.

One cool result of Travis smooshing all the clay onto the pots was a swirled, marbled effect.

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These pots would make a great summer gift for anyone who loves to garden!

Chickpea and Squash Curry

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I’m always looking for recipes that gently introduce spicy flavors, so was delighted to see this (already vegan!) recipe in our July issue of Parents magazine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained and rinsed can chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Plain non-dairy yogurt
  • Lime wedges
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the squash and onion; cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, chickpeas, curry paste, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk and spinach.
  5. Place 1/2 cup rice on each plate, and top with the curry. Add a dollop of yogurt and a spritz of lime juice if desired!

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Summer Squash Saute

Summer Squash Saute

Bumper crop of summer squash? Look no further than this easy recipe. My toddler loves it plain, or served atop orzo pasta with a bit of tomato sauce stirred in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  2. Thinly slice the zucchini and yellow squash, and add to the pan; cook for 5 minutes, until the squash is very soft.
  3. Stir in the Italian seasoning and nutritional yeast and cook for a final minute.

Older kids might like a bit of hot sauce for zip!

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Ocean Sensory Tray

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What do you do on a summer day when you plan to go to the ocean, but the weather doesn’t cooperate? Bring the ocean to you of course!

Arguably the best part of this game for Travis was dyeing the water blue, so food coloring is a must. I set up a bin of water in the bathroom, and he loved dumping in the blue color, swirling it around until we had ocean water.

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Now it was time to add all our ocean toys!

If you have shells from a recent excursion to the shore, be sure to add those as well. Since we didn’t have any, large pasta shells worked in a pinch!

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Travis loved putting all our sea treasures in and out of the bin several times.

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He also loved filling a baster up with the ocean water and creating ocean storms and waves.

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Overall, this was a nice diversion indoors – and you could certainly play it outside on a hot day, too!

Your Tops, Dad!

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This easy project from High Five magazine is sure to delight the dads and grandpas in your life this Father’s Day!

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Purchase blank white baseball caps, and let your child go wild with fabric markers. Travis had so much fun choosing colors, and deciding where the marker should go!

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The only bit I added was a name on the brim and a #1 for his dad. Add a cap for any grandpas or other special father figures in your little one’s life!

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The next step was a grown up one, but Travis loved watching; cover the the caps with a piece of white paper, and iron the caps. This will keep the marker from bleeding.

You're Tops Dad

Wishing all the dads a Happy Father’s Day!

Instant Sensory Snow

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Shaving cream snow was a big hit a few weeks back, and today we created a mixture that looked and felt even more like the real thing – in the middle of a summer heat wave!

Little ones will enjoy helping measure out 1 and 1/2 cups baking soda and pouring it into a bin.

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Aim to add about 1/4 cup shampoo (clear or white will work best), but honestly, I just let Travis have fun squeezing the shampoo in until we had a nice mix!

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The mixture looks and feels surprisingly like the real thing – cool and fluffy!

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It made for great scooping…

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And adding into cups…

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And even forming into snowballs! A novel way to play on a hot June day.

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Shadow Puzzles

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This game is a delight… both to set up and to play!

First, I told Travis we needed to go on a hunt for special items. He had no idea what was in store, but just the word “hunt” was a thrill! Find a variety of objects around the house with relatively simple outlines. We collected blocks, a hairbrush, fork, pom pom, toy wrench, and clothespin.

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While Travis watched, I outlined each of the items, and then he was my helper handing over markers by color as I filled in the outlines. He was a very proud pen-cap-remover during this stage.

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With our shadows in place, it was time to find out which object cast which shadow!

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Most of our objects were fairly obvioys, but he puzzled over the hairbrush a bit, and was so satisfied when he found the right shadow.

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No sooner done than he asked to do it again – always the sign of a success!

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Phoneme Week 5: CK

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We had great success with the phoneme this week! Travis not only latched right on to the C-K words we discussed, but whenever we were talking and he heard that hard CK-sound in our speech, he’d ask if the word had a C-K, sometimes wrong (i.e. Mark) but sometimes correct (i.e. clock). I loved that he was listening for it!

We started tracing C and K on our Usborne wipe-clean alphabet cards.

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Phonics Book of the Week: Croc Gets a Shock, is a silly and fun read, and happened to contain several other words that were big hits of the week, including: cloCK, quiCK, cuCKoo, and tiCK-toCK.

Guiding Theme: cloCK

To kiCK things off, we pulled out all of our clock toys:CK (2)

How very timely that we had a special visitor in town fixing an heirloom clock as well!

clock master

We Read:

  • Usborne’s fantastic Telling the Time book, featuring delightful characters from the Farmyard Tales series. Travis loves turning the hands on the clock!
  • Tick and Tock’s Clock Book by Debbie Rivers-MooreCK (4)

We listened:

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We Made:

  • After listening to “Hickory Dickory,” we made our own Hickory Dickory clock. Write the numbers of a clock face in marker on a paper plate. Add a printed template of a mouse (which your child can color in) and scamper him about the clock.CK (13)

We learned:

  • For science of the week, we focused on the word chiCK. Start off with a read of Usborne’s informative non-fiction volume Eggs and Chicks. Watch a quick video online of a chick hatching, then delight your youngster with this surprise: Glue a yellow tissue paper chick under a brown construction paper egg. CK science (2)Make a slit in the egg with scissors, and your tot gets to help the chick hatch!CK science (3)
  • For math of the week, we continued the clock fun with a paper plate clock, simply featuring pipe cleaner hands that Travis could move around. He also loved running around the clock with his whole body, and pausing at a number! “I stopped on 5 o’clock!”CK math (2)

We visited:

  • A clock museum! This was easily the highlight of our CK fortnight. We had to travel over an hour out of the way to get there, but it was so worth it for Travis’s glee. He described every clock we saw, and the sounds were amazing – clocks ticking in counterpoint, chiming at odd intervals. While there, he fell in love with cuCKoo clocks, which made Croc Makes a Shock all the more fun. Unfortunately I could not take photos inside – here he is out front!CK (24)

We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Truck: First, separate your trucks from your cars, which will be a good lesson in sorting and vocab building. We made a huge truck town for our vehicles with stiCKy tape. CK (6)Half the fun turned out to be ripping up those roads and loading the tape into our garbage and dump trucks! CK (9)Then our trucks went to the mechanic shop (i.e. our tool bench), and even drove through shaving cream! Enjoy a read of Usborne’s Big Book of Trucks, Richard Scarry’s Book of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, and Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.CK b
  • Duck: Listen to songs like Six Little Ducks, then read classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey or Duck and Goose by Tad Hills.
  • Block: If you haven’t just pulled out blocks to build with lately, now is the time! As I’m sure you can guess, we had to build a cloCKtower!CK (27)To continue the fun, we made jell-o building blocks and sponge blocks!DIY sponge (2)
  • Knock: Give your kiddo the giggles by telling silly knock knock jokes. If you don’t know good ones, you can search online for kid-friendly fare. The one that gave Travis the giggles:

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Lettuce.

Lettuce who?

Lettuce in it’s raining!

  • Back: Use your child’s back as a blaCKboard! This is a great relaxation activity if done soon before a nap or bedtime. Have your child lie on their tummy, and trace shapes, numbers, letters, or anything else your child requests with your finger. I like to spell out Travis’s name, or draw him shapes, and he can guess what it is. Add lotion for a soothing treat!CK (20)
  • Dock: If you live near a dock of any kind – a wharf, a marina, a lake, an oceanside town – go visit on a sunny afternoon!port jeff (4).JPG
  • Black: Draw or paint all in black for your art lesson this week. Wear any black clothing you have. Try and find black foods to eat – black olives were a surprise hit!CK (23)
  • Trick: We decided to have fun with magic tricks! Although a bit young for it, that didn’t stop Travis from loving Usborne’s kit of Magic Tricks to Make and Do – he immediately took to waving the wand, shuffling the cards, and sorting through the props. CK (16)He loved watching me perform simple tricks, like self-attaching paper clips. Then we made coins disappear!Coin Trick (3)
  • Lock: Lock toys and puzzles are great for little fingers, so pull out any that you have.CK (19) Travis also loves playing with old sets of keys around the house, using them to manipulate all our real locks. Good thing mama knows how to reverse the damage!
  • Brick: Tell the story of the Three Little Pigs this week but make sure to emphasize the briCK house, and why it was so important to the outcome of the story.CK (29) Then go on a brick hunt around town – brick houses, brick walkways. Travis loved yelling out “Brick!” as we drove around and spotted the material. CK (28)What a perfect coincidence that our local children’s museum had a brick laying pattern activity.CK d
  • Chick: In addition to the science of the week mentioned above, we made an adorable chick snack – tint marzipan yellow with food coloring, and press onto bow-shaped pretzels. Add a little dot of sprinkles for eyes.Chick Pretzels (6) If you’re able to pipe on orange frosting beaks, yours will look even more like chicks! Then I put together pipe cleaner chicks for him to hop around; wind a pipe cleaner around your fingers, then glue on googly eyes, a triangle beak, and little feet from orange construction paper.CK (21)
  • Stick: Because we played with sticks recently for the ST phoneme, this time we went with glow stiCKs! What better activity for a dreary rainy day than to light things up with a few of these from the party store! Travis loved that he could snap the thin neCKlace ones himself. CK (11)Then we made Glow Stick Balloons! We did consider using sticks to make a sun cloCK at the beach, but the weather did not cooperate.
  • Rock: Just in time for Memorial Day, we painted patriotic rocks. Patriotic Rocks (6)Other simple activities would be to set off on a rock hunt, and perhaps turn a few into pet rocks once home with pom poms and googly eyes.
  • Sick: Kids all seem to love playing with doctor kits! So take turns being the sick patient this week, or treat a sick dolly to some TLC!CK (17)
  • Kick: For your exercise this week, get out there and kick around a soccer ball. And by this point, you’re probably as exhausted from CK week as we were!CK c

Dip In!

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Whether for an upcoming pool party, a summer BBQ, or any excuse at all, dive into summer with this easy dip for fresh veggies. The recipe (from our latest High Five magazine) was a great lesson on different herbs and spices for my little sous-chef!

Ahead of time, I chopped 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley. Travis was so excited to test the way it smelled and tasted!

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Have your child add the parsley to a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup non-dairy sour cream and 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (we like Earth Balance organic), whisking until smooth.

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Travis was a very proud whisker.

Now have your child add 1 teaspoon dried chives, 1/4 teaspoon dried dill, 1/8 teaspoon salt, a dash of black pepper, and a dash of garlic powder. We loved smelling and talking about all the different spices as we worked!

Refrigerate for about 1 hour, then serve with cut veggies – Travis polished off a plate of cucumber sticks, carrot sticks (I steam them first), and cherry tomatoes.

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DIY Sponge Blocks

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When it comes to homemade building blocks, these are as easy as they come! Just buy large sponges in bulk (aim to have about 8 to 12 total), and you’re ready for play.

I hadn’t even finished cutting the sponges into shapes (rectangles, squares, and triangles) before Travis noticed them piling up on the counter and demanded we start playing with them.

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The building commenced right away.

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Once the initial novelty of the shapes and texture wore off, it was time to be more imaginative. The sponges soon turned into food.

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Which needed to be grilled of course.

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To take a break from the imaginative play, encourage your toddler or preschooler to make letters with the sponges, or simple patterns by color or shape.

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As the grand finale, we took the sponges outside. They were exceedingly fun to dip into a bucket of water and throw onto the ground.

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We also tested out how much water the sponges could hold, by squeezing them over a cup.

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And you thought sponges were dull as dish water!